Saturday delivery to continue through 2015

August 8, 2014

WASHINGTON—Saturday mail service is likely to continue through 2014-15 as congressional leadership continues to debate terms for a sweeping postal reform bill.

At the end of June, the House of Representatives resoundingly approved by voice vote an appropriations bill covering the U.S. Postal Service for the coming fiscal year that included the mandate for Saturday delivery. The Postal Service, which announced in 2009 it would end Saturday delivery, continues to oppose Congress’ annual mandates for the service.

HR 5016 moves to the Senate for possible action before the Oct. 1 fiscal year begins, though appropriations bills often die before enactment because of the many riders attached to them by hopeful members of Congress who cannot get their favorite initiatives passed in regular order. If the Senate does not take up HR 5016, Congress would have to pass a continuing appropriation bill to fund the agencies covered by HR 5016. The six-day mandate is highly likely to be included in either bill, noted Tonda F. Rush, National Newspaper Association chief executive officer.

The House was the Postal Service’s best hope for killing the six-day service, with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, solidly in postal management’s corner. But most Democrats and many rural Republicans concerned about hurting rural areas with USPS’ continued service cuts squared off against Issa and won.

The Saturday delivery debate has effectively stalled postal reform bills, as USPS continues to argue that the $40 billion of debt on its balance sheet must be addressed with cost savings from service cuts. Earlier this summer, it also announced it would close more than 80 more mail processing centers—all in smaller towns—to consolidate more mail processing in urban areas.

NNA President Robert M. Williams Jr. said he hopes the postmaster general will recognize the overwhelming support by Congress for keeping strong mail service standards intact and will move on to other reform provisions that NNA supports. He noted that most of the debt on the USPS balance sheet was created by Congress through its requirement for USPS to prefund retiree health benefits. Although USPS cash flow has been too weak to meet the requirement in recent years, it notes the obligation among its liabilities.

“Congress does not expect the Pentagon to make money or to prefund its liabilities. Although no one supports a continuously red-ink Postal Service, NNA has grown increasingly concerned that it is Congress’ unrealistic expectations driving USPS out of business,” Williams said. “Community newspapers need a strong Postal Service, both for their own delivery and for the well-being of local economies. We have done our best to support Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s efforts to get USPS onto sound financial footing, and we respect the problems he is facing. But we have reached our end in the service cuts and are preparing to vigorously fight alongside our allies to maintain services.”

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