Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 24, 2014

GOP Leaders: Cut Saturday Mail Service to Pay for Roads

schuster 093 091113 445x287 GOP Leaders: Cut Saturday Mail Service to Pay for Roads

Shuster supports a bill to end Saturday mail delivery to pay for roads. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There were plenty of bipartisan hallelujahs with last month’s House passage of a water resources and infrastructure bill — enough so that Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., is now cautiously optimistic about passing a highway bill this summer.

But the GOP leadership’s plan to save the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money before the August recess is likely to be more controversial than the water bill — especially if the plan means no more Saturday mail delivery.

According to a memo circulated among House Republicans in the late-afternoon on Friday, leaders plan to spend the next two months ginning up support for a short-term  highway bill extension that would also spare from bankruptcy the fund that pays for transportation projects around the country.

The suggested pay-for? Eliminating the U.S. Postal Service’s Saturday mail delivery service.

On its surface, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. The quasi-government agency that also finds itself in dire financial straits has been asking Congress for years to pass legislation that would end the six-day delivery mandate, and that request has also been made by President Barack Obama in his most recent budget blueprints.

“A transfer of general funds into the Highway Trust Fund must be offset. Given the limited window for action, we believe it is important that an offset be simple and have the support of the Administration and Congressional Republicans,” Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote in the Friday memo obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Language to move the postal service from a six- to five-day delivery schedule is included in USPS overhaul legislation being touted by Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

But the Saturday delivery issue has bitterly divided members on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol. In fact, it’s been the sticking point that’s prevented Congress over the past several years from being able to put any expansive overhaul bill on the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Members, primarily Democrats, argue that Saturday delivery is part of what makes the postal service still attractive in an increasingly-digital age; they also fear the wrath of the labor committee over the number of jobs that will be lost in eliminating a day’s work.

In a statement to CQ Roll Call on Monday, Issa’s ranking member, Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., blasted leadership’s proposal.

“We need to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, but this plan is just a senseless detour,” Cummings said. “The idea that the United States of America should cut a day of mail delivery to fund the construction of roads and transit systems is an absurd accounting gimmick and a leadership failure that I hope Congress will reject.”

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., who has sought to make overhauling the postal service part of his legacy, released a statement to reporters on Friday with the subject heading, “Return to Sender.”

“This proposal from House Republican Leadership is a non-starter. It kicks the can down the road yet again on two pressing issues — fixing the Postal Service and the Highway Trust Fund — and fails to solve either problem,” Carper said.

The Senate chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, was also displeased with House Republicans’ announcement, which comes just days after her panel has advanced a stand-alone, six-year reauthorization of highway bill.

“Republican leaders of the House came up with a strange plan to ‘rescue’ the Highway Trust Fund for a few months,’” Boxer said in a statement. “Instead of working with Democrats to come up with a sensible user fee which has been the foundation of the Highway Trust Fund, House Republican Leadership proposes cutting back mail delivers to American households.

“This idea is a jobs killer,” Boxer continued, “which does not even fund the Highway Trust Fund for a long of period of time to provide the certainty that states, cities, and businesses need.”

There are also Republicans who question the idea.

On Friday, the conservative Heritage Action circulated a copy of the GOP leaders’ memo and accompanied it with a damning review: “The idea Congress would use a supposedly self-funding agency that cannot pay its bills as a piggy bank to fund another bankrupt, self-funding fund is absurd,” said spokesman Dan Holler.

Still, it remains to be seen how closely House Republicans will heed to Heritage Action’s inevitable “key vote” against the proposal, should it come to the chamber floor: After all, even the most hard-line conservative lawmaker needs federal dollars in his or her district to maintain local bridges and roads. And Heritage Action recently recommended a “no” vote on the Water Resources and Reform Development Act, and only four Republicans complied.

On Monday, Shuster defended his leaders’ Highway Trust Fund plan, saying that it was the most prudent course of action for the time being:

“A long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill continues to be one of my highest priorities as Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, and the Committee will continue to work towards this goal.

“However, there is an immediate need to address the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and to extend the current surface transportation law in order to prevent a shutdown of transportation programs and projects across the country in the coming weeks.

“An extension through May 2015 will provide these programs and projects stability through the critical summer construction season, and provide Congress additional time to work on a long-term bill that will improve the country’s economy and competitiveness.”

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

  • http://none.com Jack Everett

    Just more kick the can republican stall. The republicans have blocked all support for infrastructure repair since Obama was elected so why is the fund not building up? We no longer use the postal service and could care less if it was done away with all together but this is no way to run government by stealing from one department to fund another.

    What has the states been doing with their federal transportation funds? WE are over taxed on gasoline now and all we get from it ois more pot holes to deal with. Why not pass legislation so states can’t steal these funds for their own private agendas?

    • jerseycityjoan

      “We no longer use the postal service and could care less if it was done away with all together”

      Who is this “we”?

      It is not me and hundreds of millions of other Americans.

    • Sally

      How can you not ‘use the postal service?’ Do you never get a birthday card? A package? A magazine? A hospital bill?
      And sorry, but states are not ‘stealing’ anything. We in MI pay in more than we get back. We are not overtaxed for gas. We lived in Switerland 20 years ago, and gas there was $5/gallon. Ours is cheap…too cheap. Wannna pay less? Drive a better vehicle.

  • Atnor

    “…they also fear the wrath of the labor committee over the number of jobs that will be lost in eliminating a day’s work.”

    The government payroll shouldnt be some kind of jobs program. If it’s not something we should pay for – then it’s simply not something we should pay for. Saturday mail delivery by the government seems like an entirely unnecessary expense for the taxpayer to fund, even indirectly. So – stop it.

    If you “also” want to actually fix either program, well, then do that too. One really should not be dependent on the other.

    ” After all, even the most hard-line conservative lawmaker needs federal dollars in his or her district to maintain local bridges and roads.

    That sounds like one of the most ineffective, dumbest, most ripe for corruption and influence peddling ways to allocate infrastructure funds that one could imagine. *sigh*

    • Sally

      The taxpayers do NOT fund the USPS. They are separate, but under Congress’ thumb.

      • Atnor

        Yep, I understand the distinction, which I tried to take into account by using “indirectly”… sorry that wasnt fully clear.

        Even as a quasi-private, government controlled entity…. their payroll is not a jobs program. If they can cut costs by eliminating Saturday service, it sounds like a fine idea to me.

  • pitch1934

    The frigging government does not pay one penny towards the Postal Service. The service has been self sufficient since 1970. The frigging government has put a millstone on the neck of the Service with its’ mandate for prefunding the health care of retirees who haven’ been born as of this moment. Now they want to screw the workers yet again? Please explain how this funds the highway trust fund. This is merely another step in the long sought privatization of the Service in order that the rich can get richer by carving up the best delivery areas for profit.

  • Roger Doger

    Congress is already stealing $5.5Billion a year with the RHBP prefunding mandate. Causing the USPS to be in the hole financially. Where do they think the USPS can come up with more money?

    By the USPS’s own study, eliminating Saturday delivery will drive away more revenue than it will save in cost.

    Nice job Congress.

  • Sally

    Idiots. Stop making the USPS pre fund their healthcare and retirement for 75 years in the future, and they MAKE money. Raise gas taxes to pay for roads. This is not rocket science, boys.

  • Gele Eerie

    Unlike the totalitarian states that naturally emerge from collectivist systems of thought, those republics that arise from the individualist conception of civilization rely upon the proven principles of morality, liberty, and prosperity.

  • docb

    Not one bloody DIME goes from the Fed to USPS..These little liars and thieves from the gopbag party are just working are to privatize the USPS and divert attention away from the fact that they have DONE NOTHING FOR THE NATION OR THE PEOPLE BUT CUT TAXES FOR THE 1% and Big Corps!

    Lying sacks of EXCREMENT!

  • On Guard! Mosin Nagant

    Since liberty impels a free country’s citizens to unleash their talents, skills, and knowledge, free citizens are able to learn more, know more, and achieve more than those subjected to collectivism’s ever-shifting mirage of illusions.

  • JackLinks

    Why did Chairman Shuster wait till June to bring up the funding the highway program,s if they were due to run out of funds in 2 months?

  • JackLinks

    How about a little background on Bud Shuster’s old man commonly known in his day’s as the “Prince of Pork!”

    http://www.businessweek.com/stories/1995-05-14/meet-bud-shuster-prince-of-pork

  • Carl Buick

    The GOP leaders are downright liars or are grossly ignorant and any other legislator believing this and going along with it are stupid and ignorant. Others in this comment section have correctly pointed out the lack of connection between highway funding and Postal operations.

  • dav

    Good thing Congress doesn’t carry mail or just might end up in dumpsters !

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    THE GOP CAN CUR THEIR JOBS WHILE THEY’RE AT IT TOO. THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS BEUROCRATS WITHOUT COMPASSION OR COMMON DECENCY.WHAT ABOUT THE 3 MILLION UNEMPLOYED AMERICANS WHO HAVE BEEN WITHOUT AN UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION SINCE LATE LAST DECEMBER? THESE FAMILIES, MANY OF WHOM, HAVE FACED FINANCIAL RUIN, OVER THE PASSED SIX MONTHS DUE TO THE INABILITY OF THE TWO POLITICAL PARTIES TO ACT EFFECTIVELY ON THEIR BEHALF. WHEN BILLIONS OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR THE UKRAINE, THE REPUBLICANS ARE STILL UNCERTAIN WHETHER WE CAN AFFORD TO HELP THESE UNEMPLOYED AMERICAN FAMILIES. HOW CAN THIS BE EVEN POSSIBLE TO BE HAPPENING? IS IT MORE COST EFFECTIVE TO HAVE THESE MILLIONS OF FAMILIES NEEDING TO GO ON PUBLIC ASSISTANCE AND FOOD STAMPS IN ORDER TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES INSTEAD? THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATS HAVE BOTH FAILED THESE THREE MILLION FAMILIES MISERABLY. MAYBE THEY JUST DON’T CARE ANYMORE. MAYBE THEY’RE MORE CONCERN WITH THEIR OWN PARTY AGENDA AND PERSONAL ENRICHMENT. THE NEXT ELECTION PROMISES TO BE A TIME FOR TOTAL CHANGE IN THE POLITICAL ARENA. MANY OF THESE POLITICIANS WILL NOT BE IN OFFICE.

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