LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: U.S. Postal Service employee Arturo Lugo delivers an Express Mail package during his morning route on February 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The U.S. Postal Service plans to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail by August, which could save the service $2 billion annually after losing nearly $16 billion last fiscal year. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)
A key lawmaker is continuing to press for ending Saturday mail delivery after Congress again failed to approve a broader overhaul of U.S. Postal Service operations.
“We must act now if the Postal Service is to endure as an independent, self-funding agency,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a letter urging an end to a long-standing congressional requirement for six-day mail service. The requirement is renewed each year as part of a spending bill; the letter asks House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., to drop the provision from a fiscal 2014 spending package likely to be introduced in the next two weeks.
Issa’s office released a copy of the letter, dated Dec. 19, this week; a Rogers spokeswoman declined comment Thursday. Also on Dec. 19, Issa introduced a bill to give the Postal Service the go-ahead for five-day mail delivery while repealing cuts in future cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees that are part of a budget agreement signed last month.
Ending Saturday mail delivery, but continuing to deliver packages, is a priority for Postal Service leaders, who estimate that the move would save $1.9 billion per year. The Obama administration is on board with the idea. In Congress, Issa, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the comparable Senate panel, have introduced legislation that would allow five-day mail delivery as part of a broader revamp of postal operations.
Even though mail volume has dropped by more than 25 percent since 2006, the number of addresses that the Postal Service must serve has climbed by more than 6.7 million during the same period, Issa said in his letter. “This is an economically unsustainable trend, unless changes in delivery are made,” he added.
But halting six-day mail delivery faces resistance from postal unions, not to mention lawmakers concerned about the impact on constituents. A non-binding House resolution sponsored by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., in favor of maintaining Saturday mail service has 206 co-sponsors, according to congressional records. Last year, the Postal Service had to back off a bid to end Saturday delivery on its own after lawmakers refused to drop the requirement for six-day mail service.
House leaders have yet to bring Issa’s bill up for a vote by the full chamber; Carper has thus far been unable to move his measure out of committee. The odds against comprehensive legislation passing this year are even steeper, observers say, both because of the November congressional elections and because the Postal Service’s financial picture is improving, at least on a relative basis.
The USPS lost $5 billion last year, compared to almost $16 billion in fiscal 2012. The outlook brightened further last month when regulators approved a temporary rate hike expected to bring the Postal Service another $2.8 billion in revenue over the next two years. But while the increase furnishes some financial relief, it is not enough to solve “systemic problems,” Carper said in a statement, adding that he will keep working on a bill “that would provide some much needed reforms to the Postal Service.”