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Congress to USPS: Not So Fast on Saturday Delivery

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[Image courtesy of bettina-werner.com]

The Postal Service's plans to end Saturday first-class delivery - and election officials' plans to cope - just took another twist as Congress included language in the latest continuing resolution to force USPS to maintain six-day delivery. From the Chicago Tribune:

Congress foiled the financially beleaguered U.S. Postal Service's plan to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail when it passed legislation on Thursday requiring six-day delivery.

The Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year, said last month it wanted to switch to five-day mail service to save $2 billion annually.

Congress traditionally has included a provision in legislation to fund the federal government each year that has prevented the Postal Service from reducing delivery service. The Postal Service had asked Congress not to include the provision this time around.

Despite the request, the House of Representatives on Thursday gave final approval to legislation that maintains the provision, sending it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The Senate approved the measure on Wednesday.

But even with the new legislation, some lawmakers are giving different signals to the Postal Service:

Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Representative Darrell Issa of California on Thursday told the USPS Board of Governors to move forward with implementing the five-day delivery plan for mail.

"The Board of Governors has a fiduciary responsibility to utilize its legal authority to implement modified 6-day mail delivery as recently proposed," the lawmakers said in their letter to the USPS board.

The Postal Service, they said, is in such dire financial need that it must implement all measures to resolve its problems ...

Several polls have shown a majority of the public supports ending six-day delivery of first-class mail.

The plan for a new delivery schedule would respond to customers' changing needs and help keep the Postal Service from becoming a burden to taxpayers, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said.

The bottom line is this: Congress may or may not have the authority to force the Postal Service to continue six-day delivery. The Postal Service may or may not decide to recognize that authority.

The impact on election officials trying to decide what to do about timely delivery of ballots and other materials is the same, however - wait and see. They're likely used to it - but I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks it's a good idea. Here's hoping USPS and Congress can somehow find their way to clarity sometime soon.

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