Senators Propose Allowing Postal Service to Ship Wine, Beer as Part of Reform Plan

As the U.S. Postal Service faces a growing financial crisis, U.S. senators think the agency can solve some of its problems by turning to alcohol.

Lawmakers introduced a bipartisan reform plan Wednesday that would, among other things, allow postal workers to deliver wine and beer in a bid to boost revenues.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn, said the plan would pull the Postal Service "back from the brink of bankruptcy" and allow it to survive for years to come.

The proposal on alcoholic beverages would allow the Postal Service to do what FedEx and UPS already do now -- handle packages sent by licensed wine and beer manufacturers in accordance with state laws. Consumers would not be able to mail alcohol to one another.

According to the senators' plan, the Postal Service would first have to issue new regulations to ensure beer and wine are sent only to recipients who are at least 21 years old and have a valid ID.

The plan would also keep six-day mail delivery for at least two more years. Ending Saturday delivery has been one of the more controversial components of the Postal Service's plan for cutting costs.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the senators want to ensure that cutting Saturday delivery is the "last resort," as opposed to the "first option."

The plan would also encourage the Postal Service to negotiate a new health care system with union employees, seek cuts in post office staffing and refund postal overpayments of nearly $7 million to the federal retirement system.

With part of that money, the senators want the Postal Service to start a "compassionate buyout program" to reduce staff.

The Postal Service lost $8 billion last year and could report even larger losses when its 2011 budget year report comes out in mid-November.

"Without taking controversial steps like these, the Postal Service is simply not going to make it, and that would be terrible," Lieberman said.

Mail volume is down 22 percent since 2007, largely because of the combination of people switching to the Internet to communicate and pay bills. The recession has discouraged advertising mail.

The Postal Service is at the center of a $1.1 trillion mailing industry that employs 8.7 million people in direct mail, printing, paper-making, catalog sales, fundraising and other businesses.

A separate overhaul plan sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is awaiting action by the full House.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.