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Cummings proposes short-term fix for USPS

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings is among a group of Democrats introducing a bill Monday that would let the U.S. Postal Service delay a $5.5 billion payment for retiree health benefits as the beleaguered mail agency struggles to avoid a default.

The Postal Service, which is losing money as e-mail continues to supplant traditional paper mail, expects to default on that payment, which is due at the end of the month, officials have said. The three-month delay included in the bill would give the White House and Congress more time to find a long-term solution.

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"The Postal Service is one of our nation's most trusted and reliable institutions," the Baltimore Democrat said in a statement. "This short-term measure would give Congress an additional three months to consider ways to ensure that the Postal Service is profitable and competitive in the 21st Century economy."

Unlike most private firms, the Postal Service is required to fully fund its anticipated future retiree health care costs, according to Cummings. Temporarily suspending that prepayment, he said, would not affect retiree health care.

Officials are considering several ideas to address the service's financial woes, including ending Saturday mail delivery, closing post offices and layoffs.

In addition to Cummings, the bill is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks, of Washington; Stephen Lynch, of Massachusetts; Jose Serrano, of New York; Gerald Connolly, of Virginia; Danny Davis, of Illinois and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, of Washington, D.C.

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