WASHINGTON — California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa who co-sponsored a House bill aimed at saving the U.S. Postal Service, said a proposal announced Wednesday is nowhere near strong enough to rescue the quasi-government agency for good.
The ongoing saga’s latest development, a pitch from the service itself, calls for reducing window service hours at 13,000 rural post offices — instead of closing as many as 3,700 post offices completely.
“To achieve real savings creating long-term solvency, the Postal Service needs to focus on consolidation in more populated areas where the greatest opportunities for cost reduction exist,” Issa said in a written statement.
He said the Postal Service spends less than $600 million per year to run its 10,000 smallest post offices, a small fraction of the $5 billion it spends in operations annually.
The House bill Issa favors would instead trigger major cuts including $3 billion in post office and processing facility closures in the first two years. The Postal Service’s new plan would save $1 billion over two years and result in “very few” closures.
Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who co-sponsored a bipartisan Senate postal reform bill, released a statement saying he was “disappointed” the Postal Service moved to make changes before Congress passed a bill but was “encouraged” to see the changes are in line with the Senate’s own proposals.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, another bill co-sponsor, said in a statement that she is “cautiously optimistic” that the Postmaster General has found a way to preserve rural service while also cutting costs.
Until this new plan was announced, it seemed likely that the Postal Service would fulfill its threat to consider closing up to 3,700 post offices starting on May 15 in order to cut a deficit that runs $25 million every day.
Now the Postal Service says it will close a post office only if the surrounding community voices its approval.
“We’ve actually had a number of communities tell us that they’re okay if the local post office closes, if it means a neighboring post office remains open eight hours a day,” Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan announced Wednesday during a press conference at Postal Service headquarters.
An Opinion Research Corporation survey found most customers preferred shortened window hours over alternatives like mail delivery by rural carriers, consolidating post offices that are near each other or seeing local businesses function as village post offices.
The Postal Service claims its proposal will save more money than it could by closing post offices. Annual savings of $500 million would come from reductions in work hours as many full-time positions become part-time. More than 21,000 postmasters would also receive retirement incentives.
All this comes as Congress, which oversees the service, is still wrangling over its own prescriptions. Two weeks ago the Senate approved a plan precluding any rural post office closings for at least a year. The House has yet to consider its own more harsher medicine.
The Postal Service plan will first need approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission. Changes would then be delayed for another 90 days.
In an emailed statement to The Daily Caller, the commission said it will not comment on the new policy until it has received the plan and has reviewed it fully.