Leading congressional Republicans strongly support U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s plan to save $2 billion a year by eliminating Saturday letter delivery. Yet on Wednesday, party members defied their leadership and joined Democrats to pass an amendment to the House appropriations bill that would keep letters, bills, and junk mail flowing six days a week. “Removing it now would have allowed the USPS to make life more difficult for these many small businesses and individuals,” said Tom Latham (R-Iowa), who co-sponsored the amendment with José Serrano (D-N.Y.) “Moving to a five-day mail delivery is not the answer.”
The vote undercut claims from postal worker unions and their allies, who frequently accuse Republicans of trying to use the U.S. Postal Service’s financial crisis as an excuse to gut the government mail operation. But it essentially dooms any further efforts this year to fix the USPS, which reported a $5 billion loss in 2013.
Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has been spearheading the campaign in the House. Earlier this year he introduced a a bill that would eliminate Saturday letter carriage and phase out door-to-door delivery in many areas of the country. The White House supports these things. On Monday the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of Issa’s bill, saying it would save $23.6 billion over the next decade. Surely, Issa thought he had a good chance of getting his bill through the House. After all, how often does Issa agree with the White House on anything? So it must have come as a shock when his own party members went the other way.
Postal worker unions went all out in support of the amendment. “This is a clear victory for letter carriers and other supporters of a strong Postal Service,” said Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. “We’re grateful to Reps. José Serrano and Tom Latham for their bipartisan effort to make sure this language is once again part of this legislation, just as it has been for more than three decades.”
Rolando is right: This is a big win for NALC and its allies. They have Republicans like Latham to thank for it. As long as they do, nobody will be “gutting” the USPS.