House Republicans Insist the Post Office Keep Expensive Saturday Service

Here we have a government agency imploring Congress to let it save money by curtailing service, and the House GOP on Wednesday afternoon rejected the idea. In nearly any other context, that would be inexplicable. But: mail!

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Hope you hadn't made any plans for August 3, because they just got cancelled: You'll be sitting by your mailbox, waiting for your mail, just like every other Saturday. And you can thank Congress — the House on Wednesday afternoon voted to override the postal service's plan to axe weekend deliveries starting that day. The Times' Ron Nixon reports:

A spending measure passed by the House on Wednesday to keep the government operating through September requires that the Postal Service maintain a six-day mail delivery schedule, a potential setback for the agency, which announced last month that it planned go to five-day deliveries to cut costs. …

Faced with billions of dollars in losses, Postal Service officials said last month that beginning in August the service would stop delivering mail on Saturdays, though it would continue to deliver packages on a six-day schedule. The agency said cutting Saturday delivery would save about $2 billion a year.

Politicians didn't like that move, apparently, even though a healthy majority of Americans did. With House passage of the "continuing resolution" — a bill that serves to kick the budget ball a few months down the road — the measure now heads to the Senate and, if passed there, would then need to be signed by the president.

That it passed the Republican-dominated House by a healthy margin suggests that Saturday service will survive 2013 — but it doesn't explain why it passed. We have a government agency imploring Congress — quite literally! — to let it save money by curtailing service, and the House GOP rejecting the idea. In nearly any other context, that would be inexplicable. But: save the mail!

Nonetheless, good news for those who depend on various catalogs, fundraising appeals, bills, and — once or twice a year — cards from loved ones to get by. You need only continue to suffer through Sundays, at least until 2014.

Update, 9:03 p.m.: Well, maybe we shouldn't get our hopes up. Ali Ahmad, spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Committee, argues that The Times report (and, therefore, ours) is incorrect.

What the House approved today doesn't change the Postal Service's plans for reduced service, he says, because it will still have some deliveries on Saturday, just not full first class mail service. This is key: passage of the continuing resolution maintains existing standards for a variety of funding streams, including a longstanding provision that the USPS deliver six days a week. Even with the agency's recently proposed reductions, the Oversight Committee believes it will still meet that benchmark without reinstating full Saturday service.

But it may get more exciting yet. Quoting Ahmad:

Even if a court were to disagree with the interpretation that both the Postal Service and the Oversight Committee have made about this change in service being consistent with the law, the Postal Service would still have the option to go forward with its change by forgoing the roughly $100 million the appropriations bill made available.

We plan to follow up with New York Rep. José Serrano, who The Times quotes as suggesting that full Saturday service will be restored. We will share that update when available.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.