June 14, 2014—UPDATED June 16—Earlier this week, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe recklessly endorsed the House of Representative’ leadership’s outrageous ploy to use massive job and service cuts in the Postal Service to “pay for” a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which will run out of money in August if Congress fails to raise the gas tax that normally funds it or to come up with an alternative source of revenue.
The proposal, the brainchild of the outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), would use the alleged savings of eliminating Saturday mail delivery to offset the cost of a temporary injection of taxpayer funds into the trust fund to keep highway maintenance and construction projects going for a few more months.
The plan, which appears to have failed to gain enough support to advance in the House, was widely panned in Washington as a transparent gimmick that relied on averting a hypothetical taxpayer bailout of the Postal Service in the future. It was also a massive failure of leadership. Our nation deserves a serious long-term solution to our highway infrastructure crisis, but the House of Representatives refuses to govern.
NALC President Fredric Rolando denounced the PMG’s move and issued the following statement:
“Mr. Donahoe’s action may be the most irresponsible thing any Postmaster General has done since the creation of the Postal Service in 1970. If allowed to succeed, this budget gimmick would have set a terrible precedent for the Postal Service. Why raise taxes or reduce spending at taxpayer-funded agencies, when you can pay for pet projects with legislated service cuts at the Postal Service? Need a new aircraft carrier? Slash post office hours. Want a new fleet of planes to fight forest fires? Raise postage rates. The PMG recklessly risked undoing all the hard work we did in the late 1980s to get the Postal Service off-budget, to shield the Postal Service and ratepayers from scheming politicians like Rep. Cantor. The PMG owes every postal employee and every postage rate-payer an apology.”
The Postal Service did not just offer rhetorical support for the House GOP plan. It spent the week distributing grossly misleading “fact sheets” to Congress about the effects of eliminating Saturday delivery.
The NALC and our allies in the other unions and in both parties in Congress fought back with fact sheets and communications of our own.
In a blog post for Congressional Quarterly, David Harrison reported that, following “a late barrage of opposition” from rank-and-file House members, House leaders have decided not to pursue this plan to involve the Postal Service in financing a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund.
“The proposal to end six-day [mail delivery] was not well received by a large portion of the Republican conference and appears to be dead,” said a senior House Republican aide told CQ. “Other, more viable options are now being considered.”
The CQ story reported that, according to House Republican aides, the plan imploded after its architect, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his GOP primary election on June 10.
Conservative organizations, such as Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, also were against the plan, CQ reported, while Democrats had outright dismissed the idea—a lack of support that would have left House leaders scrambling to hold on to as Republican support as possible.
But President Rolando warned NALC members to remain vigilant:
“We may have defeated this gimmick, but we must also ensure that the six-day mandate is renewed in next year’s House appropriations bill. The next few weeks will be decisive on this front as well; we will need every member to fight to save the Postal Service from politicians who want to dismantle it. It’s a shame that the postmaster general has made common cause with the dismantlers instead of working with us and other stakeholders to advance consensus reforms that will strengthen the Postal Service, not weaken it.”
Updated June 16 to include Congressional Quarterly’s report that the plan has been set aside.