Postal Service Facing Default, Shutdown Without Congressional Intervention

The head of the U.S. Postal Service said in an interview that the organization will default -- perhaps as early as this winter -- unless Congress intervenes.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe's comments reflect a well-known reality that the Postal Service is in dire financial straits. The rise of email and online bill-paying has steadily eroded its profits over the years while labor costs soar. Donahoe is calling for a host of changes, including the elimination of Saturday delivery, to close a deficit projected to top $9 billion this year.

But he said Congress needs to step in to help keep the service alive.

"Our situation is extremely serious," he told The New York Times. "If Congress doesn't act, we will default."

According to The New York Times, the service will be unable to make a $5.5 billion retiree health care payment later this month and is expected to run out of money to pay workers and other expenses early next year. This could force a shutdown in delivery.

Averting that outcome doesn't necessarily mean a bailout. One thing the service wants from Congress is a law to effectively nullify a contract prohibition on layoffs -- part of Donahoe's plan involves laying off 120,000 workers, but he needs Congress' help.

Some in Congress are also looking at letting the organization recover billions in supposedly overpaid pension payments.