Material prepared for a Wednesday news conference by Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe says that Postal Service market research and other research has indicated that nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the agency to reduce costs.
"The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America's changing mailing habits," Donahoe said. "We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings."
The Postal Service contends that it has the authority to cut back service, though some in Congress insist that lawmakers have the final word. In any case, the announcement is expected to move the issue to a front burner.
The proposal comes as the agency has closed post offices and changed procedures to try to stem its hemorrhaging of billions of dollars in recent years. More people have been turning to alternatives to traditional mail service, including electronic tools such as email and outside competitors such as FedEx, both of which have seriously cut into the Postal Service's erstwhile monopoly.
Congress in recent years has prohibited the Postal Service from dropping Saturday mail delivery, but the initial response to Wednesday's announcement was more accepting of what might be inevitable.
"This common-sense reform would save the Postal Service more than $2 billion annually," two top Republicans, Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, said in a statement.
"In his recent inaugural address, President Obama spoke about the need to find real solutions to our nation's problems.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Issa, agreed that action was needed, but questioned whether the Postal Service could act alone.