Postal Service bleeds $3.2 billion in latest quarter

USPS also said Thursday that it would not be able to pay the roughly $11 billion that it owes on the health care prepayment over the next five months, and that it may be forced to default on other payments to the government if Congress doesn't act. 

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But lawmakers will have to bridge some wide differences to enact postal reform legislation, a point that was underscored by congressional leaders’ Thursday statements on the USPS losses. 

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller probe cost .7M in early months | Senate confirms Homeland Security nominee | Consumer agency limits data collection | Arrest in Andromeda botnet investigation Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (D-Del.), one of the sponsors of bipartisan Senate legislation last month, once more urged the House to push through a bill of its own and allow Congress to move closer to passing a final measure. 

For his part, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who introduced the House GOP bill on postal reform, used his statement to again describe the Senate bill as inadequate.

As for USPS, its second-quarter losses this year were roughly a billion dollars more than the same period a year ago, and come on the heels of a disappointing first quarter in which the agency hemorrhaged some $3.3 billion. 

For the second quarter, the agency said that total mail volume had declined 4 percent, to 39.5 billion pieces. But USPS did say that shipping packages continued to be a bright spot for them, with revenue from that sector increasing 13 percent over last year. 

In all, the Postal Service has projected it will lose more than $14 billion in the current fiscal year. 

USPS has moved forward on its own with cost-cutting measures, including yesterday’s announcement that it will keep many rural post offices open for shorter hours, a change that will save $500 million a year when fully implemented. 

But it needs congressional approval to move forward with other parts of its plans to chop $22.5 billion from its annual costs by 2016, including rolling back the retiree prepayment and moving to five-day delivery.

The Senate bill, which postal officials have also said doesn’t go far enough, would make the prepayments more manageable for USPS, but would not allow the agency to scrap Saturday delivery for at least two years. 

“At a time when we're fighting to create jobs and grow our economy, allowing the Postal Service to go under is simply not an option,” Carper said in a statement. “The reality is that Congress must pass comprehensive postal reform legislation to provide the Postal Service with the tools and resources it needs to not just survive in the 21st century, but to thrive.”

The House measure would allow USPS to move more quickly to five-day delivery, but does not give the agency as much relief from the prepayments. Postal officials have also expressed concern about a control board included in the House bill that would implement cuts if the agency didn’t find enough savings. 

“The USPS needs responsible legislative action to restore long-term solvency, preserve delivery of mail, and protect taxpayers from footing the bill for a bailout,” Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement. 

“While the measure approved by the Senate failed to achieve these benchmarks, the House of Representatives will advance a comprehensive postal reform bill that protects the long-term interests of postal customers.”

Some lawmakers, like Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (I-Vt.), and unions like the National Association of Letter Carriers also noted Thursday that a vast majority of the service’s deficit came from the benefit prepayment.