By Bill McAllister
When a group of 26 members of the House of Representatives voted this summer to add a provision to an appropriations bill that would require the United States Postal Service to restore mail deliveries to the standards in place in 2012, the action attracted little attention.
After all, adding postal restrictions to appropriations bills has been a standard practice for lawmakers in Washington.
It is the way Congress has refused to allow an end to Saturday mail deliveries.
But this new requirement has raised the hackles of USPS officials, and they are fighting the proposal, saying the Postal Service “simply cannot afford costly legislatively-mandated inefficiencies that undermine our viability as a self-funding entity.”
On July 13, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office entered the fray, reminding lawmakers that the USPS has estimated the cost of returning mail service to the 2012 standard in fiscal 2016 alone would cost the financially troubled agency “about $1.5 billion a year in operating costs.”
That is money that the CBO says the Postal Service doesn’t have.
The CBO says that its calculations indicate that a change in delivery standards “would probably cost significantly more than $300 million.”
“However in CBO’s judgment the USPS does not have sufficient resources to do that and the agency’s past actions demonstrate that it likely would give continued funding of its daily operations a higher priority than attempting to comply with a new Congressional mandate,” warned CBO Director Keith Hall.
Hall did offer one rosy predication for the USPS.
He said that the agency is likely to end fiscal 2016 with a $1 billion profit “on a cash accounting basis.”
The mostly Democratic lawmakers who had backed the proposal to roll back mail service to 2012 standards have not retreated.
They are hoping that growing discontent over the Postal Service’s acknowledged slowdown in mail deliveries will light a fire under lawmakers.
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