Connolly Claims Postal Service Lacks Authority to Cut Saturday Deliveries, But Others Beg to Differ

usps_mediumWith great fanfare, Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, (D-Va.) today released a statement from the Government Accountability Office saying the claim by the Postmaster General that the U.S. Postal Service has the right to cut its mail delivery schedule from six-to-five days “rests upon a faulty USPS premise.”

There is no legislative authority from Congress allowing the change, said Connolly, who represents a Northern Virginia district packed with government employees.

“The GAO legal opinion clearly rejects the Postal Service’s attempt to circumvent the law,” Connolly said. In its letter to Connolly, GAO says that USPS is bound by current law and the current Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government requires “USPS to continue 6-day delivery and rural delivery of mail at not less than the 1983 level.”

But according to a spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, under the appropriations bill heading to President Obama for his signature, USPS retains its authority move forward with the modified Saturday delivery plan announced on February 6, 2013. Congress has done nothing to change the authority that USPS indicated it had when it announced the plan.

“In fact, GAO notes explicitly that it does not address whether or not USPS can move forward with its modified 6 day delivery plan,” the spokesman said, citing a footnote on page 2 of the report, in which GAO notes that its opinion applies only to USPS operations prior to the anticipated signing of the new appropriations bill by President Obama.  “We do not consider whether the planned service changes USPS has announced would comport with the provision,” the footnote reads.

But Connolly insists that the GAO opinion “makes it crystal clear that USPS cannot operate outside the legislative authority of Congress and unilaterally implement a change in delivery service that many believe will not only disrupt mail service, but also exacerbate USPS revenue losses and contribute to the decline of this constitutionally-mandated service to all Americans.” 

“Unfortunately, the Postmaster General continues to stonewall Members of Congress, withholding his legal justifications for eliminating Saturday delivery from Postal customers and the American public,” Connolly said.

Meanwhile, Connolly might want to take time out from blocking the Saturday cutbacks and consider finding  way to encourage federal agencies to patronize the Postal Service. A new report finds that out of $337 million spent on shipping last year, federal agencies spent only $4.8 million with the Postal Service, less than two percent. The lion’s share of the money went to FedEx and United Parcel Service, ConsumerAffairs reported recently.

Why? One big reason is that, unlike private companies, the Postal Service can’t sell any products below cost, even if doing so would enable it to snag contracts that would be profitable overall.

Who would impose such an onerous and unbusinesslike restriction on what is supposed to be a semi-independent government corporation? Congress, of course. While blocking the Postal Service from cutting unnecessary expenses, Congress does little or nothing to steer new business its way.

But to hear Connolly tell it, cutting Saturday deliveries would plunge large parts of the U.S. into poverty and blight, even though Canada — a prosperous nation by anyone’s reckoning — has done quite nicely without Saturday deliveries for decades.

“Fortunately, the Comptroller General and the dedicated, impartial analysts at GAO do not operate in a similar fashion, and I appreciate their prompt and diligent work in analyzing and issuing today’s legal opinion that clearly rejects the Postal Service’s attempt to circumvent current law under the Continuing Resolution,” the Virginia Congressman said.

“GAO’s opinion is clear that ‘USPS’s interpretation of the Continuing Resolution and of the 2012 Appropriations Act parses the statute in a fashion that frustrates both the nature and the purpose of the Continuing Resolution,’ and I hope the Postmaster General will cease wasting energy on flouting the will of Congress and the law itself” Connolly said.  “It is imperative that the USPS focus on working with Congress to pass comprehensive postal reform legislation that transforms its business model to grow and thrive in the 21st century,” Connolly said.

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James R. Hood
James R. Hood is the editor and publisher of FairfaxNews.com. A former Associated Press editor and executive, he has more than 50 years of reporting experience.