Young votes to protect Alaska’s bypass mail, but bill likely won’t go far

A man in a blue t-shirt and sunglasses. His t-shirt reads "Save America's Postal Service." Behind him are people wearing masks holding placards.
Jim Raymond is president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Local 4319. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Congressman Don Young voted this weekend for a Democratic bill to prohibit changes to the U.S. Postal Service that would slow delivery.

Young was one of only 26 Republicans who voted for the bill, in a rare Saturday session.

The legislation would also provide $25 billion in emergency funds to help the Postal Service with coronavirus expenses.

RELATED: Postmaster general considers bringing budget axe down on Alaska’s Bypass Mail

Young’s spokesman did not respond to interview requests over the weekend, but Young released a video recorded in his Washington office.

“I flew all the way back to Washington, D.C., the United States Congress, to vote on a postal bill. We all know the postal service is one of our greatest institutions. Has been ever since we developed the Constitution,” he said.

The Senate is unlikely to take up the bill and the White House said President Trump will veto it. Trump said this month that he does not want to give the postal service the $25 billion it requested because a functional post office will be able to process more ballots in the November election.

Threats to the postal service have special resonance in Alaska. Much of the food and consumer goods that are sent to rural Alaska are shipped at parcel-post rates, through a special Alaska program called bypass mail. Pallets of cargo are shipped directly to the communities, without going through the post office. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said last week he was considering cutting the program. Young said he doesn’t have the authority to do that on his own.

“He’s only been on the job 60 days. And he doesn’t understand Alaska. I have written him a letter with the other delegation, Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Sullivan,  and I think he’ll understand better … that bypass mail is good for Alaska and how it actually makes the Post Office money, or at least they don’t spend as much,” he said.

Bypass mail customers pay only a portion of what the program costs, but the congressional delegation said it would cost the postal service more if the cargo had to pass through a post office.

Alyse Galvin, the Democratic nominee challenging Young in November, said the Congressman hasn’t done enough to fight off the threat to Bypass mail. Senate candidate Al Gross has made similar attacks against Sen. Sullivan.

Both Alaska senators are co-sponsors of a separate Senate bill that would also provide $25 billion to the Postal Service. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he’ll consider funding the post office in a new coronavirus relief bill.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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