U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin

February 8, 2013

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Thursday afternoon questioned whether the U.S. Postal Service has the authority to eliminate basic Saturday delivery service on its own.

Seeking to deal with a $16 billion loss in the last budget year, the Postal Service plans to stop delivery of regular mail - letters and magazines and newspapers - on Aug. 5. It will continue to deliver packages and fill post office boxes.

Postal Service officials argue they can make the change autonomously because the organization is operating under a temporary spending measure, not a congressional appropriations measure.

"The more I think about it, I don't think they have the authority to do that," Harkin said in a conference call with the Daily Times Herald and other media.

He added, "We've got to get that cleared up."

Harkin said there are a lot of ways of cutting costs in the Postal Service and saving money without slashing Saturday delivery.

"That's not that way to save the Postal Service," Harkin said.

He said the Postal Service can raise more money with new strategies.

"They've talked about co-locating some post offices in grocery stores and mini marts and things like that," Harkin said. "All the time, when I was growing up in Cumming, our post office was in the grocery store. There's nothing wrong with that if that saves money."

Harkin said it makes no sense that private companies like Federal Express and UPS can ship alcohol but the Postal Service cannot. "That shouldn't be," he said.

Post offices in rural Iowa should be able to issue hunting licenses and perform other roles to boost revenue, Harkin said.