(Eric Risberg/AP) (Eric Risberg/AP)

Congress moved a step closer Thursday to rescuing the financially strapped U.S. Postal Service with passage by a Senate committee of legislation that would restructure some debts, drop Saturday service in the future and allow a just-enacted rate hike to be permanent.

The bill, approved 9-1 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, follows last year’s passage of postal legislation by a House committee. Once each bill reaches the House and Senate floors, key provisions will likely change in a conference committee.

Thursday’s action, the product of a year of deliberation by the committee’s top Democrat and Republican, left two key stakeholders unhappy in the challenging effort to help stanch the Postal Service’s multi-billion-dollar losses.

Postal unions said an eventual move to five-day delivery, while postponed for now, would eliminate tens of thousands of jobs. Commercial mailers said a provision allowing higher postal rates, designed to bring the mail agency billions of dollars in new revenue, would drive away business, forcing mail volume to plummet.