09232020What's Hot:

DeJoy suspends Postal Service changes amid election fears

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that he was suspending “longstanding operational initiatives” at the United States Postal Service, amid fears that the changes could delay election mail this fall in the middle of the pandemic.

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement.

Advertisement

In his statement, DeJoy asserted that “mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are” and that “overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.” DeJoy’s statement does not address whether changes that have already been made — like removed equipment or changes in operational practices — would be rolled back.

DeJoy also announced that that the USPS would expand its task force on election mail, saying “leaders of our postal unions and management associations have committed to joining the task force.” The embattled postmaster general said the agency would “engage standby resources” on Oct. 1.

Two people familiar with the decision said the suspension of changes was “absolutely not” due to an order from President Donald Trump.

“They felt the heat. And that’s what we were trying to do, make it too hot for them to handle,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, reacting to the announcement during a POLITICO Playbook interview.

Earlier Tuesday, a group of Democratic state attorneys general announced they were filing lawsuits over the changes at the USPS, arguing the changes were made unlawfully and without following proper procedure. “We are moving forward to hold the Trump Administration accountable,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the co-chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, said in a statement.

DeJoy is scheduled to testify in both chambers of Congress over the next week after coming under heavy criticism in recent weeks.

He will first appear on Friday at a hearing at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and is then set to appear at a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday, along with Mike Duncan, the chairman of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Congressional Democrats largely reacted with skepticism to the USPS announcement.

“While it is a positive development that the Postmaster General says he will be temporarily rolling back some of these harmful changes as I have demanded — there are still too many unanswered questions,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know whether he will be returning sorting machines he already removed from facilities across the country, the details of any changes he is leaving in place and any future changes he plans to enact.”

DeJoy has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks, which came to a head when The Washington Post first reported last week that the USPS’ general counsel sent letters to election officials in 46 states, warning that some ballots may not be deliverable on time because of incongruities between various state deadlines and the USPS’ delivery capabilities.

Election experts have long warned that some state deadlines are unworkable, even if the Postal Service is operating at full capacity.

However, some election administrators and congressional Democrats feared that additional reported slowdowns at the Postal Service could further exacerbate the problem. Additionally, some felt that the Postal Service was pressuring election administrators to switch to a higher postage rate close to an election, an unforeseen additional expense that many election administrators would not be able to shoulder in the midst of a pandemic that is already stretching state budgets to the breaking point.

One person familiar with the decision said the heavily criticized changes were “becoming a distraction,” “a red herring” and a “lightning rod.”

“The priority now is making the election work and nothing else is a priority,” said the person, calling the proper delivery of ballots during a pandemic “too important.”

“We don’t want to politicize this,” the person added.

A senior White House official said DeJoy “understood that several of the initiatives that started under President Obama were being misconstrued to be new operational decisions that could appear to affect mail delivery in the lead-up to the Nov. 3 elections.”

“Putting a pause on any changes was not a reversal of any new plan under the Trump-appointed postmaster general but just a prudent decision to calm any concerns about the hard-working men and women of the post office’s ability to deliver mail on time,” the official said.

The Postal Service has long been a target of the president’s rhetoric. Last week, Trump indicated he opposed allocating additional funding to the agency in an effort to prevent the expansion of mail-in voting, which Trump has baselessly said will lead to widespread fraud. The president has since walked back some of his demands on funding.

House Democrats indicated they would forge ahead with a bill aimed at addressing concerns with the Postal Service. The bill, which is expected to be voted on in a rare Saturday session, is expected to include billions in additional funding and prevent any changes before next year.

“Yeah, we want to roll them back,” Pelosi said in the POLITICO Playbook interview when asked whether she believes the bill is still needed.


Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic