Senators indicate support for Postal Service reform in subcommittee hearing

Sen. Tom Corburn (R-OK), a frequent critic of the US Postal Service, emerged as an unlikely champion of the agency’s 10-year plan to revise its business model at an April 22 Senate subcommittee hearing.

The conservative Oklahoma Republican voiced support for moving to five-day-a-week delivery and reining in labor costs. Coburn also pressed his colleagues to include a requirement that the arbitrator in any collective bargaining impasse must consider the USPS’ overall financial health in any reform legislation.

“It’s not realistic to have labor negotiations that do not consider the financial health and long-term viability of the organization,” he said.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, also voiced support for this modification to the collective bargaining process.

Unlike last week’s House hearing on postal reform, the USPS found a warmer reception to its 10-year plan in the Senate. Both Carper and Coburn support the Postal Service’s request to eliminate Saturday delivery. The potential savings of $3 billion per year is too significant to dismiss, Carper said.

“We need to spend some time examining the details of what the Postal Service has put forward, but I’m not aware of any changes, structural or otherwise, that would save this much money and help the Postal Service preserve the quality of service it provides throughout the week,” Carper said.

However, the more receptive atmosphere in the Senate doesn’t indicate smooth sailing for the plan. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who was absent from yesterday’s oversight hearing, has voiced her opposition to five-day delivery. Collins is also reluctant to give the Postal Service greater flexibility to close uneconomic post offices. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) also voiced concern about the move to five-day delivery.

“While I understand that the Postal Service believes it could save $3 billion per year, there are differing estimates. I am not convinced that enough sound analysis has yet been done to determine the real savings,” said Akaka. “Also, cutting one day of delivery would eliminate 17% of delivery service for a projected 5% savings. This is a heavy trade-off, and one that could further reduce customer demand for postal services.”

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