Embattled U.S. Postal Service Gets Help From Rural America
As the U.S. Postal Service limps along, bleeding billions of dollars every financial quarter, congressional leaders are looking to a group of outspoken rural lawmakers for help with a dramatic restructuring of the agency.
Rural Americans say they regard their local post offices as the centers of their communities. With UPS and FedEx service limited or more expensive in some areas, many rely on the Postal Service to deliver medicines, while families need it to pay bills and small businesses and craftsmen use it to ship goods to customers.
The lawmakers representing these communities have fought bitterly against plans to close more than 3,600 post offices, end Saturday delivery and scale back overnight delivery - moves that have been proposed to get the Postal Service on better financial footing.
Now Republican backers of a controversial bill to overhaul the Postal Service by creating oversight groups to close facilities and cut costs are courting rural lawmakers in hopes of getting a proposal voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives this summer.
The timing is tricky. Members of Congress want legislation to help the service avoid default on two payments totaling $11.1 billion to the federal government before the November 6 presidential and congressional elections, which could quiet talk that a taxpayer bailout of the USPS could be needed.
But lawmakers in tough races, particularly in rural areas, do not want to have to defend voting for legislation that could lead to the closure of post offices in their districts.
“One of the worst things a member of Congress has to endure is an onslaught of protest from people who don’t want their postal facility to close,” said Representative Dennis Ross, a Republican who co-sponsored the bill with Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.