Panels vote to maintain six-day postal delivery schedule

The Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Approprations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on Thursday approved spending bills that include provisions requiring the U.S. Postal Service to maintain a six-day delivery schedule.

"The support for six-day delivery remains strong in Congress. Yesterday's votes show that the Postal Service's penny-wise and pound-foolish proposal to cut Saturday service is the wrong way to go," National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric V. Rolando said on Friday. "NACL applauds the leadership of Sen. Jon Tester [D-Mont.], Sen. Dick Durbin [D-Ill.], and Rep. Jose Serrano [D-N.Y.]. We agree with Sen. Durbin [that] Congress should look to recover the tens of billions [of dollars] the USPS has overpaid into the federal pension system to stabilize the Postal Service."

Formal approval of the six-day schedule, however, is still uncertain. "These are important steps, but we must clear many more hurdles in order to stop the Postal Service from eliminating Saturday delivery," American Postal Workers' Union Legislative and Political Director Myke Reid said in a statement. "The full Senate and House would have to approve the bills and then the two versions would have to be reconciled to resolve any differences between them."

While votes for the Senate Appropriations Committee spending bill have been placed on the Senate legislative calendar, the House Financial Services Subcommittee bill first must gain approval from the full Appropriations Committee before heading to the House floor for votes.

In March, USPS proposed a reduced schedule to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The five-day delivery strategy was an attempt to address the agency's estimated loss of $238 billion during the next 10 years. In an April hearing before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee, Postmaster General John Potter told Congress that if USPS continued operations as usual, the agency could run out of money as early as fiscal 2011.

USPS reported that a five-day delivery schedule would save $3 billion annually. It also would eliminate the equivalent of 40,000 full-time jobs, saving $2.7 billion.

According to Gerry McKiernan, manager of government media relations at the Postal Service, the language in the bill regarding mail service delivery is the same as it's been since 1983. He believes Congress is waiting for the findings from PRC's review of the proposed five-day delivery schedule before it tackles the subject. "Congress has the final say, but I think the Hill would like to hear from PRC before they enter into serious consideration of the issue," McKiernan said on Friday.

USPS has been unable to convince Congress that a five-day delivery schedule would solve the agency's financial woes. But some lawmakers claim the reduced delivery schedule would put rural Americans at a disadvantage.

"Folks in rural and frontier communities often rely on their Saturday mail to bring them the things they need to live," Tester said on Wednesday. "Unlike in urban areas where folks can walk down the block to the local drugstore, many Montanans live long distances from the nearest pharmacy or newsstand. Getting mail six days per week is part of what keeps rural America strong and thriving."

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