USPS supporter in Senate criticizes postmaster general

Tuesday - 3/20/2012, 7:27am EDT

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), March 19 Senate speech

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been steadfast in wanting to help the Postal Service climb out of its fiscal hole, but she is losing patience with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe's plan to close facilities across the country.

"The postmaster general and I fundamentally disagree on how to save the U.S. Postal Service," Collins said, on the Senate floor Monday. "I am concerned, indeed deeply worried, that he will continue to make decisions that will severely degrade the service and drive away customers. That will undermine the opportunity for our bipartisan legislation to be successful."

Collins and Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) authored one of several bills to give USPS some financial help.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) (AP photo)

Donahoe announced last month he wanted to switch to a five-day delivery schedule, raise stamp prices, reduce the size of its workforce and close up to 252 mail-processing centers and 3,700 local post offices.

He also wants to control the agency's own health care benefit program, which Donahoe said would save $7.1 billion annually. Its recent strategic plan aims to save $20 billion a year by 2015.

But Collins said this plan flies in the face of the work she and her colleagues have done with Donahoe over the last year.

"The approach taken by our postal reform bill, the 21st Century Postal Service Act, would be to reduce excess capacity while still preserving service for the customers of the Postal Service," she said.

Collins added the bill she and her colleagues submitted would not ban the closure of every single post facility, but it would establish service standards and allow for public feedback to ensure that delivery delays and the impact on customers would be considered.

"Our bill would still allow the Postal Service to reduce the workforce using buyouts," she said. "And, it would still allow processing capacity to be reduced to match the decline in volume."

The Collins-Lieberman-Carper bill is set to come to the full Senate for a vote in the coming weeks. Collins said the fact that the bill is coming to the Senate floor shortly should slow down Donahoe's plans.

"On top of the damage already incurred, what this reckless move demonstrates is an attitude that is dead-set on its service-degrading, customer-be-ignored approach," she said. "That attitude seems so stubbornly entrenched that I worry that even if our bill becomes law, the current Postal Service leadership would not enact it properly in good faith."

Collins also questioned whether postal reform legislation was worth pursuing any longer.

A USPS spokesman told Federal News Radio the agency had no comment on Collins' criticisms.

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