House Democrats Accuse U.S. Postmaster of Lying About Mail Delays, Political Motives
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats hammered the U.S. postmaster Monday with allegations that he is conspiring to sabotage on-time mail deliveries while he defiantly denied he is trying to influence the 2020 federal election.
Instead, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he was trying to cut costs to end persistent budget overruns for the U.S. Postal Service.
“I hope we can agree that the financial condition of the Postal Service is unacceptable and needs to be fixed,” DeJoy told the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Shortly after starting his job on June 15, DeJoy announced what he described as efficiency measures.
It reportedly included removing lightly used public mailboxes, shutting down hundreds of letter sorting machines in distribution centers and limiting overtime for postal workers. DeJoy denied some of the reports.
Since the efficiency program started, on-time mail deliveries have dropped by at least 8 percent, according to government reports cited by Democrats.
They accused DeJoy’s efficiency program of delaying deliveries to postal customers for prescription medicines, Social Security checks and supplies for small businesses.
They also said he appeared to be aiding President Donald Trump’s opposition to plans for large scale voting by mail in the upcoming Nov. 3 federal election. Supporters of voting by mail – primarily Democrats – hope to limit voters’ exposure to coronavirus at polling places.
Trump has said mail-in votes are likely to be subjected to fraud and uncounted ballots from misplaced letters.
DeJoy announced his plans for revamping mail service shortly after Trump publicly disputed the wisdom of voting by mail.
At the congressional hearing Monday, DeJoy said his efficiency plan was unrelated to Trump’s political policy.
“I’ve had no contact with the Trump campaign,” DeJoy said.
However, he acknowledged to Democrats that he donated $1.2 million to the Trump presidential campaign and his wife is a candidate to become U.S. ambassador to Canada.
He assured the congressmen the Postal Service could promptly deliver all mailed-in votes without interruption to the election.
“I am not engaged in sabotaging the election,” DeJoy said. “We will do everything in our power and structure to deliver the ballots on time.”
As consumer complaints about mail delays became more shrill, the U.S. House approved $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service on Saturday. It also banned the Postal Service from continuing the reorganization blamed for slowing mail deliveries.
The bill awaits a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is not expected to win approval. Trump urged fellow Republicans to vote against it.
The House vote followed by two days a Senate hearing in which Democrats accused DeJoy of mismanagement and concealed motives similar to the House hearing Monday. In both hearings, Republicans largely sympathized with him as he explained his efforts to balance the Postal Service budget.
“Our entire country is experiencing these delays as a result of Mr. DeJoy’s actions,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., told DeJoy, “I’ll be honest, I don’t trust you right now.”
Republicans who blamed the Democrats for using DeJoy as a scapegoat for the Postal Service’s financial problems were more conciliatory.
“I want to apologize for some of the statements made today,” said Rep. Robert Gibbs, R-Ohio, after withering criticisms and threats of criminal prosecution by Democrats.
“You’re just trying to do your job,” Gibbs told DeJoy.