A key House committee has once again voted to block the U.S. Postal Service from eliminating Saturday delivery, attaching an amendment to a spending bill that would require the agency to deliver mail six days per week.
The amendment, introduced with bipartisan support by Reps. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., and Tom Latham, R-Iowa, was approved easily by the full Appropriations Committee after a subcommittee omitted the mandatory delivery language during its markup last week. The six-day rider has been included in every postal-related appropriations bill since 1983.
Several members of the committee from both parties spoke during Wednesday’s markup in support of the amendment. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee and author of the original spending bill, was the only member to rise in opposition to the amendment.
Crenshaw said dropping Saturday mail delivery would provide USPS with significant savings, but did not offer strong resistance.
“I will vote no, but I encourage you all to vote your conscience,” he told the committee members.
Supporters of the amendment -- and, therefore, six-day delivery -- used many of the same arguments voiced by postal unions and lawmakers opposed to cutting service: job loss. -- the full impact of which has been debated; hurting elderly and rural postal customers; and the possibility of ultimately causing more harm than good.
Switching to five-day delivery “will cause the demise of the Postal Service in the long run,” Latham said.
Other committee members used novel explanations for their support of the amendment.
“Should we have a cyber attack in some part of the country, we’ll always have mail as a backup,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., said some senior citizens “rely on a visit from their letter carrier so they maintain in-person relationships.”
The Postal Service announced in February of last year its plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, while keeping it for packages. It was forced to backtrack when the Government Accountability Office ruled the appropriations rider prevented the agency from delivering fewer than six days per week.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has been a staunch advocate for modifying the delivery schedule, saying it would save the cash-strapped Postal Service $2 billion annually. He has encountered significant resistance in Congress, with the issue playing a large role in holding up committee-backed reform packages in both the House and Senate.
More than 220 lawmakers, including 40 Republicans, have signed on to a resolution sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., to ensure six-day mail delivery. The House’s postal point man, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., supports a modified delivery schedule, however, and has included a measure to cut delivery days in multiple postal overhaul bills. Issa last week wrote a letter to Crenshaw thanking him for not including the rider his appropriations bill.
Issa said the three-decade old language has evolved into “a $2 billion per year unfunded mandated on the Postal Service -- a mandate the agency can no longer afford.”
President Obama has also endorsed cutting Saturday delivery, but House Democrats have not gotten on board.