EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2516 - April 07, 2011     1 of 2

Postal Service Five-Day Delivery Plan Faces Long Odds in Congress

By Kenneth Corbin

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As the debate over the federal budget rages in Washington, the U.S. Postal Service is making its case to lawmakers to scale down to five-day weekly delivery service as it seeks to reverse the massive financial losses it has suffered in recent years.

The Postal Service contends that it has the authority to implement the reduction in service under current postal law, though each year Congress has attached a rider to the organization's appropriation bill requiring it to continue six-day service.

As a result, the Postal Service is pressing to remove that language from the next federal budget, though President Obama's proposal for fiscal 2012 would retain the six-day requirement.

"We're hopeful that the Congress will see it our way this year," USPS spokesman Gerald McKiernan told AuctionBytes.

The Postal Service is also trying to drum up support for legislation apart from the appropriations package that would explicitly grant it the option of phasing out Saturday deliver. Sen Tom Carper (D-Del.) offered one such measure in the last Congress, though the bill stalled, and has yet to be reintroduced in this session.

Whether such a bill would override the six-day delivery requirement in the Postal Service's annual appropriation remains an open question.

"It's an unpredictable situation," McKiernan said, adding that it would "depend largely on how the language was crafted."

But the proposal to end Saturday delivery has so far failed to garner much political momentum, and the prospects for incorporating the measure in the fiscal 2012 budget are dim, according to Ruth Goldway, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), an independent agency with oversight authority over the Postal Service.

"I don't think it has a reasonable chance this year," Goldway told AuctionBytes. "The general sense is that the Postal Service is not going to get this as quickly as it hopes."

Goldway's agency recently issued a lengthy report that concluded that the Postal Service dramatically overestimated the annual savings it would realize from the shift to five-day delivery, and understated the loss in annual revenue such a move would entail. The PRC is advising Congress to take a closer look at the economic impact of a reduction in delivery frequency before authorizing the move. (Look for more on this in tomorrow's issue.)

In the meantime, the unions representing postal workers are lobbying vigorously to defeat any proposal to end Saturday delivery. The largest, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), is staging the "5-day is the wrong way" campaign, backing a House resolution stating that the Postal Service "should take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of its 6-day mail delivery service." As of this writing, the resolution had 67 cosponsors.

The Postal Service has committed to wait six months before eliminating Saturday delivery after securing the blessing of Congress. That means that if the Postal Service were to beat the odds and win the removal of the six-day delivery language from the budget for fiscal 2012, which begins Oct. 1 of this year, Saturday delivery would continue at least through March of next year.

About the Author
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.


About the author:

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects since 2007, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.


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