Postal Service Overhaul Is in the Mail

Posted April 8, 2013 at 11:21am

This is the season when all lawmakers are preparing to launch their own legislative priorities and plot how to move them to the front burner of the Capitol’s attention.

Putting the Postal Service on a more sustainable financial footing is near the top of the list. The mail system’s problems are no less urgent than last year, when a USPS overhaul that had been labeled a “must do” before the election died at the end of the year. Negotiators remained stuck on how, if at all, to limit weekend delivery and to shutter underused post offices and mail-processing facilities and on what to do about the ballooning health expenses for postal retirees.

The debate hasn’t been public this year, except for when the USPS moved unilaterally to save about 10 percent of what it’s seeking to save in the next several years by sharply limiting Saturday delivery. Congress responded to that by writing “no you don’t” language into the law that set federal spending levels through the fall.

While that $2 billion expense continues, two senior House Republicans last week proposed a symbolically rich but financially insignificant alternative cost-saving measure: Shuttering three post offices on the House side of the Capitol complex. It will be fascinating to see if the postmaster general grants their politically astute wish or insists that Congress take a more holistic, and less self-aggrandizing, approach to righting the Postal Service’s financial imbalances.

You can read more about and listen to my discussion of the situation on WAMU, the NPR station in D.C.