Key House Member Opposes a Cut in Mail Delivery

The chances that Congress will allow the Postal Service to cut one delivery day each week are growing slim.

Postmaster General John E. Potter asked Congress for that flexibility as a last resort to save money in the face of tumbling mail volume and revenue.

It wasn’t a welcome suggestion when he testified before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday and now comes word that a key member of Congress will block the request.
The chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government, which controls the federal portion of the U.S. Postal Service budget, says no way. Rep. Jose E. Serrano, a Bronx Democrat, said “I will retain the prohibition on service cuts in my bill.”

Note the lack of any “we” or “the Congress” in his comment. Subcommittee chairmen of the House Appropriations Committee are often called “cardinals” because of their power. Cardinal Serrano has made it clear that he will use that power to maintain six-day deliveries.

“People depend on regular mail delivery and would be greatly inconvenienced by missing a day’s delivery,” he said Thursday. “The Postal Service must manage its operations in ways that will not cause consumers to miss out on mail service.”

Cutting the number of service days also has no fans among the post office unions.
William H. Young, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents those who deliver mail in cities, said it “will vigorously resist any legislative attempt to slash the number of days of delivery.”

He also called the issue a red herring, because Potter said reducing service days is not his first priority.

Young agrees with Potter on the need to reschedule Postal Service financing of retiree health benefits.

“Existing law requires USPS to do something no other agency of the federal government, no state or municipal government, and no private company in the Fortune 500, or as far as we know, anywhere, is required to do: to pre-fund its retiree health obligations,” Young said. “While it certainly makes sense to gradually pre-fund such long-term obligations, it makes no sense to maintain such an onerous schedule.”

In a message to his members, William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said losing one day “would stretch to three days when the additional day is combined with Sunday and a Monday holiday. Such delays will drive essential mail to private carriers, who will continue to deliver seven days a week.”
Burrus noted that Potter did not mention layoffs in his testimony. Postal workers apparently don’t have to worry about that, at least for the moment.

“Contractual protections against layoffs require management to engage in a detailed process that includes severance pay for employees who volunteer to retire early,” Burrus said. “These requirements would make it extremely expensive to lay off employees, so, while layoffs were feared, this possibility no longer seems to represent a threat.”

Whistleblowers are Optimistic

Whistleblower advocates were giddy this week as it became clear the House would include tough whistleblower protection provisions in the economic stimulus package it approved Wednesday.

Now the bill goes to the Senate. Advocacy groups remain optimistic, but they aren’t taking anything for granted.

They know that two measures in the legislation — one calling for jury trials in some whistleblower cases, another covering national security officials — could be Senate stumbling blocks because they have proven to be so in the past.

But because the two measures are part of the number one legislative priority for Congress and President Obama, “those concerns will be less problematic,” predicted Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.

The Senior Executive Association, however, has a problem with the jury trial provision. “The mere threat of a jury trial would serve as a deterrent to effective management,” the association, which represents civil servant executives, said in a letter the Senate leadership Thursday.

Scrutinizing Contracting

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wants to get a handle on federal government contracting, which is growing like crabgrass. Yesterday, he announced he is creating an ad hoc subcommittee on contracting oversight, chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.).

“Management of federal contracts is one of the greatest operational challenges facing the federal government,” Lieberman said. “Spending on federal contracts rose to an astounding $532 billion last year. And for years the Government Accountability Office has listed government contracting on its list of programs at high risk of waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or in need of comprehensive reform. This is a problem area that needs as much oversight as we can possibly muster.”

It’s a good thing McCaskill is a former prosecutor and state auditor. She’s going to need those skills to sort through the can of worms that is federal contracting.

Contact Joe Davidson at federaldiary@washpost.com

By Eric Pianin  |  January 29, 2009; 7:00 PM ET
Previous: Mail Service Cut Looks Less Likely | Next: Federal Government Jobs Web Site Hacked

Comments



What happened to the days that all the Postal Service had to do was Pay Tom Davis (R-VA11) his $2,500 contribution, and pay his wife, who conveniently enough in the seat he won for her had NO contribution limit. The Postal Service issues personally raised $2.5 Million for them. Then the Post Office could delay problems until the next donation cycle, then pay again. Oh, but in 2008, the lovely homewrecker Ms. Devolites Davis was kicked out of office, and without money from her and Tom DeLay, Tom Davis quit Pay to Play politics. http://beltwayprogressive.blogspot.com/search/label/Tom%20Davis

Posted by: achamblee | January 30, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I have one question: If our President is telling us that we are in such dire economic straits and that Americans must sacrifice in order for it to get better, then why isn't sacrificing one day's mail delivery on the table?

I wouldn't mind sacrificing one day's delivery at all, especially if that one day was Saturday, which would be the most logical day to suspend mail delivery.

Most banks are closed on Saturdays, anyway. What is so important about a Saturday mail delivery? Just think - no bills! A quiet, peaceful weekend would await every American, which we all need.

I am firmly behind this. I don't want the price of stamps to continue going up and up - if suspending mail service by one day would help, then I can make that sacrifice.

And shame on any American who would not.

I suspect that we're talking about BIG BUSINESS here. Well, you know what?

SCREW BIG BUSINESS! Big business is what has gotten this country into the economic and moral mess it's now in, anyway. The best thing for this country would be a return to the mom-and-pop businesses, the family-owned farms, and manufacturing of products here in the U.S. anyway.

So, I'm curious. WHO is supposed to sacrifice what? Is it that only big business is to be exempt from any kind of sacrifice?

Bah humbug. Time to get rid of the Scrooges who plague us.

Posted by: kentuckywoman | January 30, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

@ kentuckywoman... although your concerns are about the same as most mom & pop citizens, it IS big business that runs this country. Unless you just woke up from an 8+ year sleep, it has been that way. Our govt and economy has been going down the toilet since your relentless Reagan started ruining this whole country.

Last I looked, your state voted GOP... so where do you think we would be if there was 4 more yrs of the GOP ruling the country? Of course there alot of bad apples in both parties of this whole corrupt political process...

Perhaps it is time for you people to come out of their bubble and find REAL freedom and REAL concerns in another party!

Keep voting for GOP and our country will be ruined. Keep Democrats in power and they have to fix all of GOP blunders... It is a cycle that has been going on since the civil war...

You want change? Then change your parties to something other than the two most powerful corporations in the country!

Posted by: darmar40 | February 3, 2009 6:59 AM | Report abuse

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