U.S. Sen. Mark Begich told reporters Monday the Alaska delegation was having some success at fending off changes to U.S. Postal Service operations that might harm Alaska, but there was still work to do.
Almost 90 percent of the Alaska post offices once proposed for closure have been spared, but the downtown Douglas location is not yet among them, he said.
“How will Douglas fare? I can’t tell you yet,” Begich said.
Alaska’s junior senator said legislation now before Congress calls for a delay for a year in any closure decision.
Some of the information on which the Postal Service was basing its decision was found to be badly out of date, and Begich said newer, more accurate information might help make the case for Douglas.
“Some of it is fairly old,” he said.
Getting the extra year will give time to get better data on which to base decisions, he said.
At the same time, the Alaska delegation is trying to fend off attacks on bypass mail, which is used to ship into the state’s smallest, most isolated communities.
Begich said that program is particularly important to the viability of rural Alaska communities and it is only fair that it remain in place.
“It goes right to the heart of universal service for the Post Office,” he said.
Alaska’s senators have had better luck than Rep. Don Young in that fight, he said, but he acknowledged it was still not over.
In the House of Representatives, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., managed to include a provision in an upcoming spending authorization bill that requires the state of Alaska to pick up the Postal Services’ costs for bypass mail.
Begich called that “really unfair.”
In the Senate, Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are supporting similar legislation. So far Begich said he and fellow Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, have managed to keep that out of the bill.
An attempt may still be made to insert the provision when the bill reaches the Senate floor, he said.
Begich said he agrees with a legal analysis obtained by Murkowski such a provision would be unconstitutional.
Any disagreements between the final House and Senate bill version could provide another opportunity to remove such provisions, he said.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.