WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., called Wednesday for Congress to approve postal reform legislation to protect Saturday delivery to rural America.
The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it plans to end Saturday mail delivery in six months as a way of saving about $2 billion a year.
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said USPS would still deliver packages on Saturdays but would otherwise move to five-day letter delivery during the week of Aug. 5.
"The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America’s changing mailing habits," Donahoe said.
The Senate last April approved a postal reform bill that Pryor said would have put the Postal Service on the road to financial stability without sacrificing Saturday service. The House, however, did not act.
"I hope the House will work with the Senate to pass a common sense postal reform bill that will keep the USPS viable," Pryor said.
The Senate bill, which Pryor and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., supported, would have blocked the Postal Service from moving to five-day delivery for two years.
Boozman said Wednesday he was disappointed the Postal Service plans to reduce its delivery service and will work to "limit the ramifications" the decision has on Arkansans who rely on Saturday delivery.
Pryor does not believe the Postal Service can drop Saturday delivery without congressional approval. Since 1984, Congress has included a provision in its annual appropriations bill saying: "6-day delivery and rural delivery of mail shall continue at no less than the 1983 level."
Pryor plans to raise the issue Feb. 13 when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the Postal Service.
"While I agree the Postal Service needs to cut costs, their plan to end Saturday delivery cannot move forward without congressional approval," Pryor said. "They need to consider alternative measures, such as capping the salaries of their top executives or eliminating bonuses before making changes that would hurt rural communities."
In a statement Wednesday, the National Farmers Union said the end to Saturday mail delivery would be bad for rural America.
"Rural businesses do not need this economic blow delivered via the mailbox," said NFU President Roger Johnson.
Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said that ending Saturday delivery is not the best option available to reduce costs at the Postal Service.
"The Postal Service needs to look for ways to streamline services and overhead costs instead of cutting services," he said. "Access to reliable postal service is the lifeline my rural constituents rely on for medical deliveries, their Social Security benefits and business needs."
Donahoe defended the decision to cut Saturday service, saying that most customers — nearly 70 percent surveyed — support the switch to five-day delivery as a way to reduce costs and return the Postal Service to financial stability.
Support for this approach will likely be even higher since the Postal Service plans to maintain six-day package delivery, Donahoe said.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, issued a statement commending the Postal Service for making "tough – but necessary – decisions" to ensure its future.