Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 | 12:36 p.m.
Cut mail down to five delivery days per week? Not so fast, says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid is openly questioning whether Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe has the authority to slash Saturday mail delivery, a new schedule Donohoe announced the Postal Service would start implementing in August.
In a speech Wednesday, Donohoe called the move “just one part of a much larger strategy to return the post office to long-term financial stability.”
Though Reid acknowledged the Postal Service is in dire straits, he maintained Thursday that “such a drastic policy change cannot be enacted without approval from Congress.”
But the Postal Service has been waiting on congressional reform for a long time.
A year ago, postal reform efforts came to a screeching halt when the House failed to pick up a bill from the Senate to straighten up certain problems with postal workers’ pension health care system and free up extra money that they have paid forward on several decades’ worth of retirement obligations.
Service reductions and post office closures had been discussed but were not ultimately part of the Senate’s bill.
The Postal Service made some changes in the meantime, including continuing to winnow its workforce through attrition, but it hasn’t made enough of a dent.
By Donohoe’s figures, the Postal Service is now about $20 billion in the hole and can save at least $2 billion a year by stopping mail delivery and pick-up on Saturdays. (The change would not affect package pick up and delivery or operating hours of post offices, he said.)
Donohoe argued that he has the right to dictate the changes based on a reading of the current budget — technically a continuing resolution of the fiscal 2010 budget, extended and amended several times to keep funding the government.
That technicality and the fact that the Postal Service doesn’t run on appropriated tax dollars offered the Postal Service an out, Donohoe said.
“It’s our feeling that with the CR paying for services already rendered and not appropriated, we can move ahead with this,” Donohoe said, adding the legal reasoning was “not a hair-splitter, loophole sort of approach.”
Reid not only disagrees with the legal argument but with the logic of the move.
“Cutting down mail delivery to five days per week will not save the Postal Service from insolvency,” Reid said in a statement. “This short-sighted measure will deal a crippling blow to the millions of Americans and small businesses who rely on the timely and reliable delivery.”