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Saturday Vote Planned to Aid Postal Service Ahead of Likely Mail-In Vote Surge

August 18, 2020 by Dan McCue
Mail trucks outside the Hicksville Post Office in New York. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the chamber back to the Capitol ahead of a vote on legislation to block recent cost-cutting measures at the U.S. Postal Service and ensure the agency can handle a surge in mail-in ballots ahead of the November elections.

The move, announced in a letter to colleagues on Sunday, comes amid growing concerns that the Trump White House is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the election.

It also comes with a warning from the Postal Service it might not be able to deliver ballots in time for them to be counted.

“In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central,” Pelosi wrote. “Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the president.”

House Democrats are said to be particularly wary of the president’s new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a contributor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign who took over the agency earlier this summer.

His tenure has been marked by an outcry over delays, new prices and cutbacks in services.

In a statement Monday, Rep. Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, the co-chair of policy for the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats, said the Postal Service “is a lifeline for Americans across the country, particularly those in rural communities.”

He went on to say the coalition supports the House Oversight Committee’s decision to invite DeJoy to testify before it next Monday, and says if he declines to do so voluntarily, “he must be subpoenaed.”

Dejoy announced Monday afternoon that he intends to show up.

Robert Duncan, the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, has also been asked to testify.

“In addition to tampering with the mail, Postmaster General DeJoy’s actions to sabotage the USPS are tampering with the health, safety, and economic security of American citizens,” O’Halleran said.

“Not only is there potential for a delay in delivering voting ballots, Postmaster General DeJoy’s actions are hurting Americans across the country. Our constituents, particularly veterans and the elderly, are seeing weeks of delays for deliveries of life-saving prescription drugs, paychecks, and other necessities. This is unacceptable,” he added.

President Trump defended Dejoy on Monday’s “Fox & Friends” program saying his hand-picked postmaster general is working diligently to “make the post office great again.”

Later, at the White House, Trump denied the White House is behind any effort to slow down the mail ahead of the election.

Aside from voting by mail, many states also allow for early in-person voting so that people can avoid potential lines on Election Day. Voters may also have the option of receiving a ballot in the mail and then dropping it off in person at the local election office or designated drop box ahead of Election Day.

It’s unclear if the GOP-controlled Senate will act on any legislation passed by the House.

The Senate recessed last week, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told a Kentucky TV station Monday he believes “The Postal Service is going to be just fine.”

“We’re going to make sure that the ability to function going into the election is not adversely affected,” McConnell speaking in Horse Cave, Ky.

On Monday, two Democratic lawmakers called on the FBI to investigate whether DeJoy or members of the Postal Board of Governors may have committed a crime in slowing the mail.

Rep. Ted Lieu of California and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, cited reports that mail-sorting machines were being dismantled and policy changes have delayed mail delivery.

“It is not unreasonable to conclude that Postmaster General DeJoy and the Board of Governors may be executing Donald Trump’s desire to affect mail-in balloting,” they wrote in the letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

While all this is going on, the Postal Service is seeking a short-term, end-of-the-year rate increase stating the increase was needed due to the heightened demand for online packages due to the coronavirus pandemic and an expected increase in holiday mail volume.

The plan would raise prices on commercial domestic competitive parcels, including Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, first-class package service, Parcel Select and Parcel Return Service.

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