Pelosi Calls House Back to Address Postal Service Crisis
(Bloomberg) -- Members of the House will return to Washington this week, earlier than scheduled, to work on urgent legislation aimed at shoring up the U.S. Postal Service ahead of November’s elections.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the move in a “Dear Colleague” letter on Sunday evening. Ahead of lawmakers’ return, Pelosi called on Democrats to appear at post offices in their districts on Tuesday in a show of support.
“In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central. Americans should not have to choose between their health and their vote,” Pelosi said. Trump’s appointee to run the Postal Service has enacted “sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service,” she said.
Alarm bells went off in recent days after the Postal Service warned 46 states last week that it may not be able to deliver their ballots on time for the November election. President Donald Trump has said repeatedly, without evidence, that voting by mail is subject to widespread fraud.
A vote on the measure described by Pelosi, the “Delivering for
America Act,” is likely to take place on Saturday, said a senior Democratic aide. The bill “prohibits the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020,” Pelosi said in the letter.
The move cames amid a nationwide uproar over funding cuts and operational changes to the Postal Service that Democrats say threaten to impede voting in November’s election and also slowing down critical mail services across the country.
Pelosi, in her letter, said that “1.2 billion prescriptions were
delivered through the Postal Services, including almost 100% from the VA to veterans.” Many seniors also get their medication through the mail.
Democrats are also pressing for the Senate to return early from a recess scheduled to last into September, while state officials -- who actually run the elections -- are looking to take action of their own.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that attorneys general from at least six states are discussing potential lawsuits against the administration over cuts to mail service, which have become front page news around the country.
Representative Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, earlier invited Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify at an “urgent” hearing on Aug. 24 about the changes he’s made to postal services, months before what’s expected to be a surge in voting by mail.
DeJoy, a controversial Trump appointee and large Republican donor who’s run the Postal Service since May, also faces an Aug. 21 deadline to produce a variety of documents and information relating to reforms he’s ordered.
“Over the past several weeks, there have been startling new revelations about the scope and gravity of operational changes you are implementing at hundreds of postal facilities without consulting adequately with Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Board of Governors,” Maloney wrote to DeJoy.
The number of Americans voting by mail is expected to jump this year because the coronavirus pandemic is still raging in many states.
Recent media reports have pointed to the removal of mail sorting machines in various cities, as well as taking mailboxes off the streets. Post office operating hours have been reduced and overtime work cut. The agency’s inspector general is investigating those moves.
CNN reported Thursday that postal management had taken out four sorting machines in Kansas City, two in Springfield, Missouri, and one in Wichita, Kansas, according to union officials in the region.
Former President Barack Obama said Friday that Trump was “actively kneecap the Postal Service” to suppress the vote. Jeh Johnson, Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that given the pandemic and the confusion over mail-in ballots, “the message to the American public has to be, ‘Plan your vote.’”
“Think early about how you’re going to vote. As soon as you get a ballot, return it in the mail,” Johnson said.
Also on “Meet the Press,” Senator Bernie Sanders said Congress must “absolutely” return to Washington to deal with the Postal Service situation. Trump’s move to undermine mail deliveries is part of a broader goal of voter suppression, he said.
The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until September. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said at a press briefing in New York that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must return the chamber to regular sessions. Schumer also said he plans legislation to reverse some of the recent Postal Service changes, including cutbacks to a ban on overtime.
Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security panel, called for a hearing on Aug. 21 or as soon as possible.
“The president has explicitly stated his intention to manipulate the Postal Service to deny eligible voters access to the ballot in pursuit of his own re-election,” Peters and other top Democrats said in a statement on Sunday.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows termed it “NONSENSE” that Trump is attempting to undercut the Postal Service.
“I oversaw USPS in Congress on the Oversight Committee. It was a mismanaged wreck during the Obama administration—they’ve lost billions for a decade had issues long before this President,” Meadows said Sunday on Twitter.
Earlier, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Meadows said no more mail sorting machines would be disabled before Election Day.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.