Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe takes his controversial plan for five-day mail delivery to a Wednesday morning congressional hearing, where he will urge senators to swiftly find “solutions to the precarious financial situation of the nation’s Postal Service.”
In testimony prepared for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Donahoe said ”time is of the essence, and each day that passes without enacted postal reform further impacts the Postal Service’s already dire financial condition. The Postal Service is losing $25 million per day.”
There are indications that Congress is getting closer to passing comprehensive legislation. In his prepared testimony, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says that after two months of negotiations, “we are close, very close” to agreement on a bipartisan, bicameral bill.
Donahoe’s testimony outlines several key legislative goals, but five-day delivery is not specifically listed among them. He has already taken action to implement that.
After repeatedly urging Congress to allow the move from the current six-day schedule, Donahoe announced last week that postal officials determined they could take that action, effective in August, without congressional approval.
The Postal Service’s Board of Governors, he says, “is taking all steps under its control to operate the Postal Service like a business.”
After March 27, for the first time in 30 years, no law will be in effect that requires six-day delivery.
“The anticipated savings from this schedule, when fully implemented, is approximately $2 billion annually,” Donahoe says. “This step will close approximately 10 percent of the $20 billion budget gap.”
Donahoe did get some support for his five-day decision, including from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the committee.
But several members of Congress were critical of his unilateral end-run around them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said “the postmaster general’s actions have damaged his reputation with congressional leaders and further complicates congressional efforts to pass comprehensive postal reform legislation in the future.”
Last year the Senate approved legislation, cosponsored by committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), that would allow five-day delivery two years after enactment. Carper, however, was among those who expressed his disappointment with Donahoe’s plan.
“I would much prefer that any effort to move to a five-day mail delivery schedule occur in an orderly manner similar to the process the Senate approved last year,” Carper said at the time.