WASHINGTON A spending measure passed by the House on Wednesday to keep the government operating through September requires that the Postal Service maintain a six-day mail delivery schedule, a potential setback for the agency, which announced last month that it planned go to five-day deliveries to cut costs.
The legislation passed the House 267-151, with 137 Democrats voting against it. The measure now moves to the Senate.
Faced with billions of dollars in losses, Postal Service officials said last month that beginning in August the service would stop delivering mail on Saturdays, although it would continue to deliver packages on a six-day schedule. The agency said cutting Saturday delivery would save about $2 billion a year.
The agency lost about $15.9 billion last year, partly the a result of a 2006 law requiring it to pay about $5.5 billion into a health benefits fund for its future retirees. A drop in mail volume has also hurt the agency’s finances.
The move to end Saturday mail delivery was condemned by some lawmakers, unions and postal customers.
After the House voted to pass the spending measure, Rep. Jose E. Serrano, D-N.Y., said the legislation made clear that Congress’ intent was for the Postal Service to continue to deliver mail on Saturdays.
The post office said last month that it had the authority to end mail delivery on Saturdays because the spending measure passed last year did not explicitly include the postal provision.
On Wednesday, Serrano said that issue had now been resolved.
“The continuing resolution is clear: There will be six-day delivery for the rest of the fiscal year,” Serrano said. “Earlier this year the Postal Service announced they thought they had legal authority to end Saturday delivery. That analysis was wrong, but now there is no room for misunderstanding.”
Postal Service officials did not respond directly to the House vote. But in a statement, a spokesman for the agency said the decision to end Saturday delivery was “a responsible and reasonable approach to address our urgent financial situation and America’s changing mailing habits.”
“The Postal Service continues to lose $25 million per day,” said David Partenheimer, the spokesman. “The new delivery schedule would save approximately $2 billion annually once fully implemented and would be a significant step towards improving our financial stability.”