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The PJ Tatler

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

February 14, 2013 - 8:48 am

Congressional Democrats are determined to try to save Saturday mail delivery.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) yesterday introduced legislation to save the Postal Service’s sixth delivery day and repeal a law they claim is responsible for 80 percent of the mail system’s funding woes.

That 2006 law makes the post office pre-fund 75 years of future healthcare benefits for retirees over the course of 10 years. Dems say the pre-funding mandate is responsible for $4 out of every $5 in Postal Service debts.

“Most of the financial issues facing the United States Postal Service are due to short-sighted actions by Congress. Congress must unshackle USPS so we can deal with these problems and allow the Postal Service to better compete,” DeFazio said.

“While we all understand that the Postal Service is experiencing financial problems today and that changes need to be made as the Postal Service adjusts to a digital world, these issues can be dealt with in a way which strengthens the Postal Service rather than initiating a series of cuts that could eventually lead to a death spiral,” Sanders said.

The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

“Providing fewer services and less quality will cause more customers to seek other options,” Sanders said. “Rural Americans, businesses, senior citizens and veterans will be hurt the most by ending Saturday mail.”

The bill would also allow more Postal Service fundraising by lifting legal bans on services such as notarizing documents, issuing hunting and fishing licenses, and allowing shipments of wine and beer. It would also create a commission “composed of successful business innovators and representatives from small business and labor to make recommendations on other ways the Postal Service could generate new revenue and thrive in the 21st century,” according to Sanders’ office.

Yesterday, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe testified at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing about the USPS’s proposal to eliminate Saturday mail delivery.

He urged lawmakers “to eliminate any impediments to our new delivery schedule.”

“This approach to our delivery schedule ensures continued growth in our package business, and helps enable e-commerce throughout the U.S. economy. It also reflects the changing realities of America’s mailing habits,” Donahoe said.

“The financial problems of the postal service are getting bigger every year. If we had reformed the business model several years ago, we’d be in much better shape today. But if we delay reform another year or more, we may never get back to a sustainable model, and we will put tremendous pressure on our continued liquidity,” he added.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said the new schedule would be “detrimental to Arkansas’s rural communities who depend on the USPS for medications, checks, and other important services.”

“I believe the USPS’s plan is in violation of existing laws and our current funding bills,” Pryor said.

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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