Congress approved an appropriations bill on Dec. 18 to fund the government through 2016, but failed to include a measure that would have restored postal service standards to their pre-January 2015 levels.
The primary purpose of an appropriations bill is to fund the government, but budget bills are often amended to include policy provisions, also known as “riders.” Congressional Republicans added several riders to the spending bill, including a measure lifting a ban on oil exports and a rule repealing country-of-origin meat labeling.
What the bill fails to address, however, is America’s growing epidemic of delayed mail.
Since the Postal Service cut service standards in January 2015, America’s once prompt mail delivery has fallen off a cliff. Citizens and businesses alike are feeling the sting as bill payments, medicine, newspapers and absentee ballots have been significantly delayed.
Even the Postal Service’s own performance data shows the same sad truth. Degrading service standards has virtually eliminated overnight mail delivery and has resulted in a dramatic increase in delays to America’s mail.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) and the USPS Office of Inspector General have all raised serious concerns about the negative impact on postal customers and on postal revenue.
Congress’s failure to include language in the appropriations bill to ensure prompt reliable mail service threatens the future of America’s public Postal Service and is a dereliction of its duty to the American people.
Taking a Stand
Over the course of the year, many in Congress have taken a stand against delayed mail.
By a vote of 85-11 in April, the Senate approved a non-binding resolution by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that called for a halt to the closure of mail processing plants, restoration of overnight mail standards, and protection of rural services.
A majority of House members – 226 representatives –co-sponsored House Resolution 54, which calls on the Postal Service to restore overnight mail standards. The non-binding resolution, which was introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), enjoys bipartisan support. The House Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan amendment to the bill that would have restored the mail service standards that were in effect before the January 2015 cuts. When drafting the final bill, however, congressional leaders failed to include it.
Some opponents in the Senate took the position that restoring service standards would cost the government $300 million and that money was not available.
That is simply not correct. The House Budget Committee did not count restoring USPS service standards toward appropriation bill allocations because the Postal Service is “off budget,” and by Congress’s own budget bill instructions, off-budget items do not count towards appropriation bill allocations. Not only is the USPS off budget, it is self-funding. The almost $70 billion used to operate the USPS comes from selling stamps – not tax money.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D- NY) and Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-NY) authored this dissenting view: “A rare bright spot in the mark-up was an amendment offered by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) requiring the United States Postal Service to maintain and comply with July 2012 service standards for First Class Mail and periodicals. It passed with bipartisan support. The amendment requires the Postal Service to restore the service standards that were in place before it degraded mail delivery standards by virtually eliminating overnight delivery of First-Class mail on January 5th of this year. Our constituents deserve a Postal Service that works, and delayed mail harms businesses, rural America, and our economy.”
Slowing down the mail in a fast paced world is a disastrous plan for the USPS.
While Congress failed to act, the drive to keep the “service” in the Postal Service continues unabated. The growing complaints from individuals and businesses about the damaging effects of delayed mail will continue to be heard. In the ongoing effort to undo the Postal Service’s wrong-headed cuts, the activism of APWU members, retirees, Auxiliary, and allies have been outstanding. The APWU will continue to work with our allies and all members of Congress who want a robust Postal Service that provides prompt reliable mail service for all Americans.