A bill the House approved Wednesday to fund the government through September would require six-day Postal Service delivery for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The measure could override a decision last month by Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe to end Saturday mail delivery starting in August.
Donahoe’s controversial move raised questions about whether members of Congress would agree to block his plan and reinstate a six-day-delivery requirement lawmakers had approved for the past several years.
The measure represents the best existing chance of avoiding a funding crisis this month, with the government’s current short-term spending plan due to expire on March 27. Failure to reach a deal on funding the government after that date would result in a partial government shutdown.
Leaders of both political parties are hoping to avoid that scenario and quickly shift their attention toward developing a plan for long-term deficit reduction.
Neither President Obama nor the Senate’s Democratic leaders have indicated they will try to stop the House bill from becoming law.
Some Republicans who applauded the postmaster general’s plan to end Saturday mail delivery, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), voted in favor of the House bill on Wednesday.
Issa has argued that the six-day-delivery rule does not call for mail delivery in particular. He has said package delivery on Saturdays could satisfy the requirement.
Donaho said eliminating Saturday mail delivery would save the Postal Service $2 billion annually.
The agency lost nearly $16 billion last year, partly because of a 2006 congressional mandate requiring it to pre-pay 75 years worth of retiree benefits within a decade.
The Postal Service has repeatedly urged Congress to end or revise the 2006 statute and enact legislation for comprehensive postal reform. The agency defaulted on two of its pre-funding obligations last year.
The Postal Service posted a $1.3 billion loss for the first fiscal quarter, but the agency would have netted a $400 million profit if not for the congressional mandate, according to its last fiscal report.
Some lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), have questioned the legality of Donahoe’s unilateral move to end Saturday mail delivery without congressional authorization.
Approval of the House bill by the Senate and President Obama could put that debate to rest, according to Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.).
The congressman said in a statement Wednesday that the legislation would remove “any possibility of misinterpretation” and “require the Postal Service to maintain six day delivery.”
Despite supporting the Postal Service provision, Serrano voted against the House bill.
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