U.S. Sen. Rand Paul on Friday suggested cutting the number of days rural America receives postal deliveries to help shore up the financially ailing U.S. Postal Service.
The Kentucky Republican also said Congress should attach conditions to any infusion of federal money for post offices — including reducing the postal service's workforce.
Paul pitched those changes as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy appeared for a Senate committee hearing amid intense scrutiny of postal service operations and whether it will be able to provide timely delivery of ballots for the November election.
Paul referred to the postal service's financial woes as "almost an impossible problem" short of a legislative overhaul, and even then he said it would be difficult to fix the problems.
He floated the idea of reducing mail delivery from six to five days weekly, saying it would save the postal service up to $1.5 billion. Paul said that could be accomplished with a "one-sentence bill" that would put the postal service on "better footing."
The postal service could close much of its budget shortfall if it went "below five days for some very rural areas," the senator said. Paul is a member of the committee that heard the postmaster general's testimony.
"The easiest way to continue personalized service to each person individually at their house would be to do it less frequently," Paul said. "And, frankly, people who live 20 miles down a shale road — if you told them they were going to get it twice a week versus six times a week — I'd think we'd actually live with this. ... I really think people could live with that."
Paul represents a sprawling state that is dotted with small towns.
DeJoy responded that the current delivery schedule is a strength for the postal service.
"As I've worked through the process and researched and studied the organization, I think the six-day deliver, the connection that the postal letter carrier has with the American people, that gives us this highly trusted brand," DeJoy said. "And where the economy's going in the future, I think that is probably our biggest strength to capitalize on."
Paul's idea was quickly criticized by the American Postal Workers Union.
"Sen. Rand Paul takes the *brave* position of telling people who "live down dirt roads" they should get their mail two days a week," the union tweeted. "Rural Kentuckians will be angry to hear that!"
During the hearing, Paul also insisted on the need to cut the postal service's workforce, suggesting that it be tied to any financial assistance from Congress.
"I've been of the opinion basically we shouldn't give you any more money unless it's attached to reform," the senator said. "That's the only leverage we have. When the post office becomes desperate for money, we should attach things they don't want to necessarily do — less employees."
"The mail keeps dropping. You've got to have less employees," he added.
House Democrats are pushing ahead with a rare Saturday session to pass legislation that would send $25 billion to shore up postal operations. The U.S. Postal Service said recently that it lost $2.2 billion in the three months that ended in June.