The service will instead pursue other avenues in its effort to stem massive financial losses, such as asking regulators for permission to raise mailing rates, asking labor unions to open their contracts for give-backs and hoping Congress will pass a bill to stop losses that hit $15.9 billion last year.
Postal officials described the new strategy as a last resort for “extreme circumstances.”
“It is not possible for the Postal Service to meet significant cost reduction goals without changing its delivery schedule,” the agency said in a statement. “Any rational analysis of our current financial condition and business options leads to this conclusion.” Postal officials had planned to continue delivering packages on Saturdays.
The surrender came nine weeks after Donahoe stood before TV cameras and announced that he did not need Congress’s blessing to end a 150-year hallmark of the mail system.
His declaration in February that he had the legal authority to do so faced widespread opposition. Democrats and Republicans representing rural communities rejected the idea, along with postal unions that fear job losses. Advocates for the elderly who still rely on the mail and others who said the Postal Service would be giving up a competitive advantage also opposed the decision.
The Postal Service’s reversal may complicate lawmakers’ efforts to find common ground on a bill to shore up the agency’s finances.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who requested a legal opinion from the Government Accountability Office that said the move was not legal without congressional approval, said the decision ended Donahoe’s “misguided efforts to blatantly disregard the will of Congress.”
President Obama’s budget, also released Wednesday, calls for five-day delivery starting in June, two months before the Postal Service proposed.
The administration’s support is not new, nor is the budget’s plan to refund one of the service’s biggest financial burdens —$11.5 billion in payments it has made for health-care benefits for retirees.
But the endorsement, coming on the same day postal officials withdrew support for their own plan, highlighted the complex politics of mail delivery.
Among the biggest conundrums for the service is who controls its decisions. Although the mail system finances itself with minimal funding from Congress, the legislature oversees the system and controls its finances.
Lawmakers have required six-day delivery with language in the federal budget since 1983. They kept the requirement in a stopgap budget they approved in March to fund the government through the fiscal year.