At first blush, Section 202 of postal reform legislation currently moving through the U.S. House and Senate is innocuous to the point of irrelevance. The language requires the U.S. Postal Service to maintain an “integrated delivery network of mail and parcels” and to deliver them in tandem six days a week except for weeks with federal holidays or in emergency situations. The provision codifies what the Postal Service has done for generations and what no one has any intention of forcing it to stop.
Its seeming insignificance notwithstanding, however, the section has caused a stir among postal stakeholders. One group said the provision prioritizes package deliveries ahead of first-class mail, which runs counter to the Postal Service’s statutory obligations and threatens to further degrade the reliability of mail service, which only the Postal Service can provide. Another said the language benefits the Postal Service’s private-sector rivals at the expense of the agency and of parcel shippers in general. A third called the language vague, wondered why it’s in the bill and argued it potentially creates a problem where none need exist.
The language is in both the House version and in companion legislation in the Senate. With the Postal Service warning that it stands to lose $160 billion over the next 10 years absent structural changes, and with the agency coming off probably the most difficult year in its 246-year history, momentum is building on Capitol Hill to quickly enact reform legislation. It’s unlikely that progress would be stifled by any wrangling over a relatively obscure amendment that both sides have already agreed upon. The Postal Service has said it supports the language.