Postmaster takes case for five-day mail delivery to skeptical senators

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe took his controversial plan for five-day mail delivery before a congressional hearing Wednesday, where he told senators that the Postal Service “needs your help.”

Donahoe’s refrain was familiar.

●The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is losing $25 million a day.

●Last year, the Postal Service lost $15.9 billion.

●It defaulted on $11.1 billion owed to the Treasury.

As he has before, Donahoe pleaded with Congress, this time the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to approve comprehensive postal reform legislation. Now, more than before, it looks as though Congress will do so.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told the Senate panel that after two months of negotiations, “we are close, very close” to agreement on a bipartisan, bicameral bill.

Without some assistance from Congress, said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate committee, “the Postal Service will drift toward insolvency and, eventually, the point at which it must shut its doors. . . . We have never been closer to losing the Postal Service.”

Although in some ways Donahoe’s appearance echoed his many other pleas for congressional action, this hearing drew a standing-room-only crowd on the third floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. That was probably influenced by all the attention generated by his surprise announcement last week that Saturday mail delivery will end in August.

Donahoe’s written testimony outlined several key legislative goals, but five-day mail delivery was not specifically listed among them. After repeatedly urging Congress to end the six-day requirement, Donahoe said postal officials had determined that he could take that action without congressional approval.

Moving to five-day delivery would close just 10 percent of the postal budget gap, Donahoe said, yet the controversy surrounding it stole the focus from other important financial issues.

Among them is a controversial proposal to move postal employees from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which serves all federal workers, to a health insurance program run by the USPS.

Donahoe presented an updated health insurance proposal, but it received little attention compared with his five-day delivery plan.

Last year the Senate approved legislation, co-sponsored by Carper, that would allow five-day delivery two years after its enactment. The delay was designed to allow the Postal Service to study the impact of five-day delivery. Carper was among those who have expressed disappointment with Donahoe’s plan to implement it unilaterally.

“We are taking every reasonable and responsible step in our power to strengthen our finances immediately,” Donahoe told the committee. “We would urge Congress to eliminate any impediments to our new delivery schedule.

“Although discussion about our delivery schedule gets a lot of attention, it is just one important part of a larger strategy to close our budgetary gap,” he added. “It accounts for $2 billion in cost reductions while we are seeking to fill a $20 billion budget gap.”

Source : washingtonpost[dot]com


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