Congress Insists That You Get Mail on Saturdays, Like It or Not

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The short version of the news from the U.S. Postal Service today is that you're still going to get mail on Saturdays this fall. The long version is that federal budgets are far from set in stone, open to interpretation, and always up for dispute.

In February, the USPS announced that it planned to limit Saturday deliveries to packages-only, saving the agency an estimated $2 billion a year. (Last year, it lost about $16 billion.) But the post office is heavily dependent on federal funding for its operations, and thereby subject to the will of Congress. In March, when the House was considering a measure that would keep funding the government while it worked to develop a new budget, some legislators insisted that the USPS maintain full Saturday service. The string Congress attaches to USPS funding, after all, mandates six days of delivery — but the USPS thought maybe delivering packages let them slip through a loophole.

Today, the agency's Board of Governors decided it didn't.

Although disappointed with this Congressional action, the Board will follow the law and has directed the Postal Service to delay implementation of its new delivery schedule until legislation is passed that provides the Postal Service with the authority to implement a financially appropriate and responsible delivery schedule. The Board believes that Congress has left it with no choice but to delay this implementation at this time. The Board also wants to ensure that customers of the Postal Service are not unduly burdened by ongoing uncertainties and are able to adjust their business plans accordingly.

Translated into English: Full Saturday service will continue.

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Rep. Darrell Issa of California had been pushing to allow the USPS to use that loophole. He released a statement blasting the Board of Governors, saying its decision "significantly undercuts the credibility of Postal officials who have told Congress that they were prepared defy political pressure and make difficult but necessary cuts." Issa wasn't the only one supporting the shift in delivery; 71 percent of Americans did, too.

It's entirely possible that the Congress will pass a full budget that changes its expectations for how and when the USPS will deliver. But if recent experience is any guide, Congress loves its Saturday deliveries. Unlike most Americans, apparently, they find a full 48 hours far too long to wait for new coupon books and retail catalogs.

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