House Republicans Block Effort to Deliver Mail Faster and Keep USPS Facilities Open

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said the move is a setback for improved mail delivery. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said the move is a setback for improved mail delivery. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

This story has been updated

The House late Wednesday blocked a measure to require the U.S. Postal Service to revert back to the delivery standards it maintained before 2012, which the mailing agency said would have cost it $1.5 billion annually.

A committee had unanimously approved an amendment to a spending bill last month to require the Postal Service to deliver mail more quickly, but Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah -- who recently introduced a more comprehensive measure to put USPS on a path toward financial solvency -- used a legislative tactic known as a “point of order” to block the measure. Chaffetz argued the postal provision held no relevancy to an appropriations bill, and in a mostly party-line vote the Republican House majority concurred.

The Postal Service previously reduced the amount of mail it delivered overnight and shifted a substantial amount of mail from a two-day delivery standard to a three-to-five day range. Overall, USPS downgraded its delivery standards for about 28 percent of first-class mail. USPS cited those changes as necessary to enable it to consolidate facilities and rely less heavily on air delivery. The agency shuttered 141 processing facilities in 2012 and 2013, and had begun closing an additional 82 in 2015 before it suddenly decided to cancel those plans last year.

» Get the best federal news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, who introduced the original amendment, condemned the vote.

“This is a setback for restoring improved mail delivery,” Kaptur said. “Postal management’s decision to close 83 regional sorting facilities backfired, causing needless delays in first class mail and magazines, for example, and costing more through unanticipated increases in transportation, gasoline and delivery truck maintenance costs.”

The slower mail delivery and corresponding consolidations have generated controversy and have proved major sticking points in delivering comprehensive reform to the agency. Mailers and lawmakers have complained products have reached consumers more slowly, while unions have bemoaned the massive job cuts and relocations.

The consolidations have led to a series of reports finding USPS missing even its own revised delivery standards.

The Postal Service has defended the changes, saying the first phase is saving the agency $865 million annually, while the new round of cuts would generate an additional $750 million each year. If signed into law, the provision could actually force the USPS to reopen already closed facilities, as the standards in place before the consolidations would be reinstituted.

Postal management has deplored the effort to bring back the previous delivery standards, saying it would cost the agency $1.5 billion annually and $500 million in one-time costs. Sarah Ninivaggi, a USPS spokeswoman, said the measure was “financially and operationally indefensible.”

“The Postal Service simply cannot afford costly, legislatively mandated inefficiencies that undermine our viability as a self-funding entity,” she said.

Dave Partenheimer, another postal spokesman, said USPS was "grateful" for Chaffetz's efforts, explaining the slowed mail delivery generated savings "we can't afford to lose, and money we can't afford to spend."  

The provision was stripped from the spending bill despite the lobbying efforts of the American Postal Workers Union, which said in June it would do everything in its power “to make sure the amendment becomes law.”

Chaffetz’s bill -- which has bipartisan support in the House -- is silent on the mail processing plant consolidations issue, while a Senate measure would delay further reductions in delivery standards and facility closures for two years. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.