Continuing Resolution Muddies USPS Plan to End Saturday Delivery

David Goldman/AP

The House has included a provision in the continuing resolution to fund government for the remainder of fiscal 2013 to mandate six-day mail delivery, posing a possible snag in the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to eliminate Saturday letter delivery.

The continuing resolution, which the House passed Wednesday, made reference to a rider included in every spending bill and continuing resolution since 1983, requiring USPS to deliver the mail six days a week in order to receive approximately $90 million in appropriations.

“Provided further, that six-day delivery and rural delivery of mail shall continue at not less than the 1983 level,” the provision reads.

Though the Postal Service generally relies on sales from its own business to generate revenue, it receives some federal funding to reimburse the agency for free services such as overseas voting and mail for the blind.

Most lawmakers acknowledged the rider would force the Postal Service to continue Saturday delivery. A spokeswoman for House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md. -- who opposed the postmaster general’s decision to unilaterally end Saturday delivery -- said the continuing resolution “maintains the status quo” of six-day delivery.

But Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the oversight committee, said he believes the Postal Service still would have room to adjust its delivery schedule, despite the inclusion of the rider. Issa took to the House floor to call the postmaster general’s planned change a “modified six-day delivery schedule,” as packages would continue to be delivered on Saturdays.

“USPS has the authority to implement the modified Saturday delivery plan under current law and retains that authority if this provision were to be continued in its current form,” said Ali Ahmad, an Issa spokesman.

Ahmad added that the planned change is not without precedent, as it is similar to other adjustments made to Saturday delivery since 1983, such as rate hikes and product changes. 

“In the view of the Oversight Committee -- which is the authorizing committee with House jurisdiction over policies affecting the Postal Service -- this is a commonsense shift within the bounds of current law that reflects a change in Americans' use of mail and the flexibility Congress has wanted the Postal Service to have that allowed other changes since 1983 to occur.”

A spokesman for the Postal Service did not directly state whether his agency shares Issa’s view, but said the Postal Service will not defy Congress.

“We will, of course, obey the law,” David Partenheimer, the spokesman, said.

Partenheimer emphasized the new delivery plan is a “responsible and reasonable approach” to address USPS’ financial crisis, noting it will save the agency $2 billion annually.

Should the matter ultimately be brought to court and ruled in favor of a six-day mandate, Ahmad said the Postal Service could simply reject its appropriations and move ahead with its new schedule, calling the hypothetical decision a “wise business decision” given the potential savings. 

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