By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday blasted the 10-year strategic plan proposed a day earlier by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) that would eliminate $160 billion in forecasted red ink by slowing some mail deliveries, cutting some retail hours and closing some locations.
USPS officials remained optimistic Congress will pass financial reforms that could provide the money-losing agency with nearly $60 billion in relief.
Senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said the USPS plan would "result in longer delivery times, reduced post office hours and higher prices."
Representative Carolyn Maloney, who chairs the committee overseeing USPS, said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's plan "to make permanent slower mail delivery" was unacceptable "should not be implemented until Congress and the American people have the opportunity to fully review it."
Maloney has circulated draft legislation that would eliminate a requirement that USPS pre-fund retiree health benefits. It also would require postal employees to enroll in government-retiree health plan Medicare.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized various aspects of DeJoy's plan but said Congress will ensure "the Postal Service has the resources needed to serve the American people."
DeJoy said action is urgently needed: "We have to start every conversation," he said. "We're losing $10 billion a year -- gotta fix it."
Ron Bloom, who chairs the U.S. Postal Board of Governors, said in an interview he was optimistic that Congress "will embrace" the plan once carefully reviewed.
Bloom said "we're not asking for you to bail us out, we're not asking you to fix all of our problems, but if you do your part you will help enable a true revitalization of this institution."
USPS wants President Joe Biden's Administration to calculate pension obligations using "modern actuarial principles" that would save $12 billion.
Representative James Comer, the top Republican on the committee overseeing USPS, said he hoped Democrats "will abandon their partisan postal politics and give the plan a fair shot... Between USPS leadership and Congress, we must make the necessary reforms to ensure USPS is financially stable."
The National Association of Letter Carriers said the "business plan provides a good starting point for discussion going forward and should satisfy those who wanted to see such a plan before moving forward with legislation."
USPS reported net losses of $86.7 billion since 2007. One reason is 2006 legislation mandating it pre-fund more than $120 billion in retiree health care and pension liabilities, a requirement labor unions have called an unfair burden not shared by other businesses.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)