House Panel Moves Postal Service Closer to Eliminating Saturday Mail Delivery

House Oversight Committee member Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va. House Oversight Committee member Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The House has taken a major step to allow the U.S. Postal Service to eliminate Saturday mail delivery.

The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations subcommittee -- headed by Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla. -- did not include a rider in its version of the fiscal 2015 funding bill to require USPS to deliver mail six days each week. The language has been included in every postal-related appropriations bill since 1983.

House Republicans have backed off their plan to move the Postal Service to five-day mail delivery to pay for a one-year extension of the Highway Trust Fund since members of their caucus rejected the proposal and its author, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., lost his reelection bid. Republicans are pushing forward with their USPS-backed five-day mail delivery plan, however, which would remove the only roadblock preventing the agency from eliminating Saturday delivery.

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 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. Rep. Jose Serrano, R-N.Y., the ranking member of Crenshaw’s subcommittee and a co-sponsor on Connolly’s resolution, said during last week’s subcommittee markup he will introduce an amendment to put the rider language back into the legislation when the full Appropriations Committee considers the bill. Postal unions are organizing members to pressure lawmakers to support the amendment in advance of the full committee vote, scheduled for Wednesday.

The Senate Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee will mark up its own version of the appropriations bill on Tuesday, the details of which have not yet been released. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved in February a bill that would delay delivery cuts until 2017. 

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