House panel backs six-day mail delivery

The House Appropriations Committee restored a spending bill provision that requires the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service to deliver the mail six days a week.

USPS and top Republicans working on postal reform, like House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), have said that rolling back Saturday delivery would save the agency around $2 billion a year.

But Wednesday’s vote in House Appropriations underscores how deep the support for six-day delivery is among lawmakers, including Republicans representing rural areas.

Reps. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) and Tom Latham (R-Iowa) proposed the amendment, which was approved by voice vote. Congressional spending bills have for years required that the Postal Service deliver the mail at the same levels it did in 1983. A House Appropriations subcommittee had earlier approved a spending measure that removed the provision.

Latham said that “moving to a five-day mail delivery is not the answer,” as voters in his rural Iowa district rely on the Postal Service for Saturday medicine deliveries.

“While the USPS absolutely needs to continue steps to improve cost saving measures, those steps should not come at the expense of providing for the Iowans and all other Americans who rely upon routine postal delivery,” Latham said.

“Eliminating Saturday mail delivery would be penny wise and pound foolish,” Serrano said in his own statement. “There is no indication that getting rid of six-day delivery will somehow allow the Postal Service to return to sustainability.” 

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has said that he wants to keep Saturday package delivery, a bright spot for the agency, and scrap six-day letter delivery. USPS tried to move unilaterally to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail last year, before backing off after lawmakers objected.

In all, more than half the House – 225 or so lawmakers in all – have signed on to a resolution calling for six-day delivery, including more than three dozen Republicans.

Lawmakers like Issa and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) have tried for years to overhaul the Postal Service, which has racked up billions of dollars in losses in recent years, and have found Saturday delivery to be a major sticking point.

House Republicans also backed off a plan this month to use savings from scrapping Saturday mail delivery to help shore up the Highway Trust Fund.