Donna Leinwand Leger and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
The nation will continue to get its Saturday mail through at least September 30, the U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday.
The Postal Service backed down from its plan to cut mail delivery starting this summer from six days a week to five, saying Congress had prohibited such a move.
A measure passed by Congress last month to fund government operations while the budget remains in limbo included language that barred the U.S. Postal Service from changing its delivery schedule, the Board of Governors of the postal service said in a statement Wednesday.
The postal service had proposed delivering only packages on Saturday. The new schedule was to begin on Aug. 5.
The Board said it was "disappointed" with the move by Congress, but would follow the law. The Board directed the postal service to delay the start of its new delivery schedule while it seeks authority from Congress to make the change.
"The Board believes that Congress has left it with no choice but to delay," the statement said.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee which oversees the postal service, called the decision a disappointing setback. Polling shows Americans support a pared down schedule, he said.
"This reversal significantly undercuts the credibility of postal officials who have told Congress that they were prepared to defy political pressure and make difficult but necessary cuts," Issa said in a statement. "It's quite clear that special interest lobbying and intense political pressure played a much great role in the Postal Service's change of heart than any real or perceived barrier to implementing what had been announced."
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe had said that eliminating Saturday mail delivery would save the Postal Service $2 billion a year and is a critical part of a 5-year-plan to make the postal service solvent. He has said he would buck any Capitol Hill efforts to dismantle the plan.
The agency says it lost almost $16 billion last year, due in part to a 2006 congressional mandate requiring it to pre-pay 75 years worth of retiree benefits within a decade.
Last month, however, a bill passed by the House to fund the government through September requires six-day Postal Service delivery for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.