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House committee members: Ending Saturday postal delivery a bad idea

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Members of Congress on Wednesday harshly criticized a proposal to eliminate Saturday delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.

Cutting back to five-day work weeks is just one of several cost-cutting proposals aimed at saving money lost by slowing business and projected losses of up to $3 billion this fiscal year.

"I think that would be the worst thing possible that they could do for themselves," said Rep. Bob Barr, R-Georgia, a member of the House Government Reform Committee, which was holding hearings on the issue. "There's nothing that would hasten people's interest in pursuing other forms of delivering mail than that sort of cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face activity."

Many of the other committee members -- Democrats and Republicans -- said they agreed with Barr.

Although the Postal Service receives no taxpayer money for its operations, it remains a government agency and operates under laws set by Congress. Ending Saturday mail delivery would require congressional approval.

The last time the U.S. Postal Service went through a major overhaul was in 1970.

"The reality is, they're operating under a 30-year-old paradigm that doesn't work anymore," said John McHugh, R-New York, who chairs the Postal Service subcommittee. "It doesn't work for either the Postal Service" customers or the service's competitors.

Postal officials said the agency is expected to lose $2 billion to $3 billion this fiscal year.

The agency said factors affecting its operations included rising fuel costs; more people using e-mail over regular mail; an increasingly competitive marketplace; and wage increases and labor costs.

The American Postal Workers Union, which has 366,000 members nationwide, said it would vigorously oppose eliminating Saturday service, The Associated Press reported.

"The effect of such activity on the APWU membership would be dramatic as the number of duty assignments would be reduced and employees would be required to relocate to more distant locations," William Burrus, the union's executive vice president, said in a statement.

The price of first-class mail went up a penny to 34 cents in January. Postal managers have said they plan to apply this summer for another rate increase, to take effect next year.

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USPS - The United States Postal Service
House Committee on Government Reform
American Postal Workers Union

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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