By Kevin Bogardus - 03/24/13 10:00 AM EDT
Greeting card giant Hallmark Cards has registered its own in-house lobbyist as Congress battles over the future of Saturday mail delivery.
Hallmark is among a number of groups and companies that are pushing back on the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) decision, which was made as part of a broader cost-cutting effort at the agency.
Sarah Moe, Hallmark’s federal affairs manager, said she registered as a lobbyist after the company restructured and decided to devote more resources to Washington.
“Given that my role is strictly federal affairs, I felt I should register in order to comply with the letter and the spirit of the law,” Moe told The Hill. “We are devoting more internal resources to our federal government affairs efforts, which used to be done on a more external basis.”
USPS announced earlier this year that it would move to five-day delivery of letters by August and deliver only packages on Saturday. The agency, which reported a shortfall of almost $16 billion for the last fiscal year, estimated the move would save $2 billion per year.
The cancellation of Saturday mail has been met with serious pushback from several members of Congress, and from greeting card makers like Hallmark that stand to take a financial hit if the decision goes through.
“We think it's very serious for the postal service and if it's very serious for the postal service, it's very serious for us. More than 60 percent of our cards are delivered through the postal service,” Morrissey said.
Supporters of Saturday mail delivery have taken heart from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) letter, released Thursday, that said USPS must follow a provision passed in a government spending measure that mandates six-day delivery.
“We certainly felt the GAO analysis was correct and it coincided with what our own legal team thought,” Morrissey said.
But the postal service says it disagrees with the GAO finding, and has no plans to reverse its decision to end Saturday mail.
Republican leaders have given the USPS a green light to end six-day mail, arguing the spending bill’s language is vague. They say the postal service is not eliminating a day of service under the plan, but simply changing what is delivered on certain days.
An army of lobbyists are resisting that interpretation, and working to garner support for a non-binding House resolution that urges the postal service to take “all appropriate measures” to continue six-day service.
They’ve had some success: more than 150 lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have signed onto the resolution thus far, according to congressional records.
Moe, who came to Hallmark in December 2012 from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said she plans to lobby on other issues once the delivery debate is resolved.
“Most of my time now is dedicated to postal reform,” Moe said.
Lobbyists have also been utilizing a study by the Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA) to bolster their case with Congress. The study says the “mailing industry” supports 8.4 million jobs, creating $1.3 trillion in sales revenue, and lists the industry jobs in each congressional district.
Maynard Benjamin, EMA’s president and CEO and one of the study’s co-authors, said that industry not only includes the postal service, but also manufacturers, retailers and direct mail and shipping service companies.
I compare it to an iceberg. At the top, which is visible, is the postal service, but underneath, there are lot of other jobs,” Benjamin said.
Postal unions have also been active on the issue.
The National Association of Letter Carriers has helped plan 112 rallies in all 50 states for this Sunday. The union has also run ads in Beltway publications opposing the end of Saturday mail delivery.
In a blog post on its website, AARP is encouraging its members to attend those rallies.
Josh Rosenblum, a spokesman for the seniors’ lobby, said the group was “closely monitoring” efforts to reform the postal service and was concerned about local post office closures and the elimination of Saturday delivery.
“On some days, letter carriers are the only points of contact for the elderly, disabled and infirm,” Rosenblum said.
Rosenblum, however, noted that USPS’s plan allows for package deliveries, including prescription drugs.
Lobbyists have argued that are other options for the postal service to reduce costs. For example, Congress could ease requirements on USPS having to prepay retirees’ health benefits, which comes to $5.5 billion a year.
Postal service reform legislation passed in the Senate last year but failed to move in the House.
“We have been trying to promote comprehensive reform legislation but the Saturday debate has consumed so much attention and focus that there hasn't been much opportunity to look at the broader picture,” Morrissey said.
Not all companies who rely on the mail are against a five-day service schedule. Netflix, known for mailing rented DVDs to its costumers, is not speaking out against reduced mail delivery on Saturdays.
In June 2010, a Netflix executive said it was more important to have a well-functioning postal service than maintaining the service's six-day delivery, according to his prepared testimony before Congress. A spokesman for Netflix said the company's position from 2010 hasn't changed.
"We’re for a solution that will support a healthy postal service," said Joris Evers, the Netflix spokesman.
“Saturday postal delivery just isn’t an issue. Online is where the focus is now," said the lobbyist.
Other businesses remain divided on reducing Saturday mail delivery. Art Sackler, co-manager of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, said his members remain split.
“No one wants to see Saturday go away but we have a substantial amount of members who would tolerate losing Saturday delivery to help save the postal service some money while we have a number of others who believe Saturday is indispensable for their business plans,” Sackler said. “Our view on Saturday is neutral.”
The coalition’s members include American Express, eBay, FedEx as well as the Greeting Card Association, according to the group’s website.