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Senate Votes to Keep Saturday Mail Delivery, Fight Remains in House

By J. Craig Shearman
Washington Retail Insight
April 27, 2012

Legislation that would delay the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service’s plan to end Saturday delivery and take other steps to ease cutbacks’ impact on retailers won approval in the Senate this week.

S. 1789, the 21st Century Postal Reform Act, passed 62-37 on Wednesday. The debate now moves to the House, where legislation that would take largely the opposite approach on some key issues is pending.

“While not perfect, S. 1789 does take the necessary financial and structural steps that will constructively address the significant problems with which the U.S. Postal Service finds itself,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said in a letter to senators in advance of the vote. “S. 1789 carefully balances the needs of all of the stakeholders – communities, customers and workers – as a means to create a path to ensure the continued operation of this still-essential national institution.”

NRF warned that increasing postal rates or immediately cutting services or standards “would be counterproductive and leader to further reductions in the use of USPS, which will only lead to additional problems.”

Sponsored by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., the bill would bar the Postal Service from eliminating Saturday delivery for at least two years. Rate increases for magazines, newspapers and catalogs – including those mailed by retailers – would be blocked for three years. Postal officials would also be required to complete a study evaluating the option of downsizing before closing any local post office or other facility. Other provisions would address postal pensions, health care benefits and pay, and allow the postal workforce to be reduced by 100,000 through early retirements and other moves.

Senators rejected an amendment that would have eliminated Saturday deliveries immediately.

The postal reform debate now moves to the House, where leaders say the Senate bill would only postpone the inevitable.

“The Senate bill does not stop the financial collapse of the USPS but only delays it for two years at best, when reforms will only be more painful,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said. “The Senate’s approach is wholly unacceptable.”

Issa is the sponsor of H.R. 2309, the Postal Reform Act. His measure would allow the end of Saturday delivery and set up a task force similar to the military Base Realignment and Closure Commission that would develop a plan to consolidate redundant post offices. The bill has passed his committee and is awaiting floor action.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the Senate bill would not do enough to slow the Postal Service’s $25 million in daily losses or reduce its debt of more than $13 billion.

“We would have preferred the Senate allow the Postal Service to move further and faster in addressing its cost reduction goals,” he said.

Concerned by the impact of reduced mail service and rising postal rates on retailers, NRF has worked for several years to support legislation to keep the Postal Service financially stable. Retailers are among the nation’s biggest mailers, using the mail to deliver advertisements, catalogs, bills and merchandise, and to receive payments and returns from customers.

© 2012 National Retail Federation

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