White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to offer a definitive opinion on the plan, saying that the Obama administration only learned of the decision Tuesday and that the Postal Service is independent. He said the White House prefers a comprehensive package of reforms, and faulted the Republican-led House for the lack of movement.
Postal officials say they have broad public support for their plan. They cite a Postal Service study showing that about seven in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery.
But support in Congress is not guaranteed — nor does opposition fall along partisan lines. House and Senate leaders were unable to reach consensus in the last Congress on legislation to stanch the losses. The Senate passed a bill that would have delayed five-day delivery for two years, among other changes. A more aggressive House bill that would have allowed five-day service to proceed did not reach the floor.
Republicans who supported that bill applauded Wednesday’s announcement.
“Supporting the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to move forward with five-day mail delivery is one such solution worthy of bipartisan support,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said in joint statement.
But Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the committee that oversees postal operations, said he was disappointed. “For nearly three decades, it has been the clear intent of Congress that the Postal Service provide most communities with six days of mail delivery,” he said in a statement.
“It’s hard to condemn the Postmaster General for moving aggressively for doing what he believes he can and must do to keep the lights on at the Postal Service,” Carper added. He also criticized Congress for failing to agree on a broader set of reforms.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed hope that lawmakers would make progress on legislation to overhaul the Postal Service.
The change could be felt most in rural areas, where remote communities rely heavily on mail delivery.
“This is going to be very rough on Vermont and rural America, but it’s an uphill challenge to reverse it,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.). “Our political prospects are uphill if not up-mountain.”