The U.S. Postal Service announced plans today “to stop delivering and collecting letters and other first-class mail on Saturdays beginning Aug. 5, although packages will continue to be delivered.” The change is expected to save about $2 billion per year, far less than the service’s shortfall in recent years. Congress could remove a significant contributor to the Postal Service’s financial problems by rescinding a 2006 mandate to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees. Republican leaders in the U.S. House oppose legislation to change that policy.
After the jump I’ve posted reaction to today’s news from Senator Chuck Grassley and Representatives Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley. I am seeking comment from the other members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation and will update this post as needed. UPDATE: Added Senator Tom Harkin’s comments below.
Senator Chuck Grassley’s comments to Radio Iowa:
“There are some things that we can do here,” Grassley says. “We could modify their health benefits plan, their unemployment plan. We can allow them to raise postal rates at more than the CPI.” That’s the Consumer Price Index, the benchmark that’s used in determining the fairness of price hikes. […]
“The post office is a business and they have to seek their own revenue and if Saturday delivery is part of their efficiency,” Grassley says. “They’ve already got their employment down below a half a million. How much further it has to go down, I don’t know.”
Statement provided by Senator Tom Harkin’s office:
“I agree that we must have a cost effective and efficient postal system, but I am disappointed with the USPS’s unilateral decision to end Saturday mail delivery. This decision will lead to diminished service and it will be particularly harmful to rural customers, businesses, and seniors in Iowa and around the country.
“But, make no mistake, this is just another consequence of the inability of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to actually govern. Last year, I voted for a bipartisan reform bill in the Senate that would have addressed the long term fiscal condition of the postal service and protected Saturday mail delivery. Unfortunately, the House refused to consider the bill.”
Statement from Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01):
“I am strongly opposed to the United States Postal Service moving to 5-day delivery. For years, Iowans have relied on the post office for quick and dependable mail service. Unfortunately, today’s decision will lead to slower mail service which will hurt Iowa businesses and Iowa residents. Just last week, I signed onto a House resolution urging the Postal Service to maintain a 6-day delivery, and I will continue to fight for more reliable mail service for all Iowans.”
Statement from Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02):
“Once again, inaction by Congress has real life consequences for Iowans. By requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund retirement health benefits to the tune of over $50 billion over 10 years, which no other agency or business has to do, Congress is tying their hands. The USPS would not be in the dire situation it is today if it had not been required to pre-pay these funds.
“Legislation to address this problem was introduced last Congress but like so many other issues, House leadership refused to bring this up. I can’t think of a less partisan issue than the postal service. It is past time Congress works to find a solution to this problem.”
Loebsack has previously cosponsored legislation, which would address the USPS’s financial needs without the upheaval and job loss. He has urged leadership on multiple occasions to address postal reform as soon as possible and is currently a cosponsor of H. Res. 30, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the UPSP should continue with its 6-day mail delivery service.
UPDATE: Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, released this statement.
Today the Post Master General announced his intentions to stop Saturday mail delivery, except for packages. It is regrettable that the Postal Service is caught up in a political crisis caused by an uncooperative Congress. A Congress that is requiring them to pre-fund retiree expenses 75 years into the future. The requirement is costing the post office billions of dollars to fund and the employees have neither been hired nor, in some cases, even born yet.
No mail delivery on Saturday will cause undue hardship on the economy, impact rural Iowans, and increase work load on the letter carriers – especially on Mondays and delivery days after a holiday. This action will impact over 22, 000 postal employees and millions of Americans from small business to the elderly and the disabled.
This is yet another step towards denying the Americans the universal postal service that they deserve.