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Democrats ready to question Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on service changes

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is set to head into a red-hot grilling Monday by House Democrats about service changes at the U.S. Postal Service that critics worry will undermine mail-in voting in November.

Republicans accuse the Democrats of chasing “mailbox myths.” Yet widespread reports about the moves — including the collection of mailboxes, decommissioning mail sorting machines, changes to mail routes, and cuts to overtime — have sparked concern about the postal service’s ability to function efficiently during the coronavirus pandemic and during the election.

Democrats are concerned the changes were intentionally implemented to undercut the postal service ahead of an election cycle dependent on mail-in ballots.

“It makes absolutely no sense to implement these dramatic changes in the middle of a pandemic less than three months before the November elections,” said House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney on Saturday.

“The American people do not want anyone messing with the post office. They certainly do not want it to be politicized. They just want their mail,” the New York Democrat added.

While Democrats have highlighted the potential impact of delays on the elections, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned the service changes are hurting rural communities and those who rely on the mail for their medications. House Republican leaders are urging “calm,” saying Democrats are inflating the postal service’s struggles.

“The postal service is not incapacitated. It is still fully capable of delivering the mail,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

He argued that the USPS will be financially solvent through August 2021, that the agency is more than capable of delivering mail ballots at its current capacity, and that mailbox collection is not an abnormal policy.

Monday will be Mr. DeJoy’s second time testifying about the policy to lawmakers.

On Friday, the postmaster general acknowledged that the changes did cause a “dip” in deliveries but denied he changed anything regarding overtime or election mail.

The postal services, he pledged, would be capable of delivering 95% of election mail within one to three days and treating it as first-class mail.

In response to Democratic backlash, Mr. DeJoy said before that testimony that he was suspending the changes until after the elections. He also said he supports vote by mail and encourages people to vote early.

However, he said he had “no intention” of returning decommissioned mail-sorting machines.

“As we head into the election season, I want to assure this committee and the American public that the postal service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time,” Mr. DeJoy told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “This sacred duty is my number one priority between now and Election Day.”

Democrats are ripping apart Mr. DeJoy’s testimony — criticizing his comments about the sorting machines, saying he lied about the cuts to overtime, and generally remaining skeptical of his commitment to keep the postal service efficient.

Mr. DeJoy, a big donor to Mr. Trump and a former logistics executive, took over as postmaster general in June.

On Saturday, Ms. Maloney released new documents from the postal service showing a decline in its service starting in July.

Particularly, first-class mail dropped from nearly 95% on-time delivery to about 85% at the beginning of August. Additionally, priority mail dropped from 90% on time to less than 80%.

“After being confronted on Friday with first-hand reports of delays across the country, the postmaster general finally acknowledged a ‘dip’ in service, but he has never publicly disclosed the full extent of the alarming nationwide delays caused by his actions and described in these new documents,” Ms. Maloney said in a statement.

“These new documents show that the delays are far worse than we were told,” she added.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, expects Monday’s hearing to be a bloodbath for Mr. DeJoy.

“How much you want to bet on Monday they’re going to treat the postmaster general just like they treated the attorney general three weeks ago,” the Ohio Republican said on Fox News on Saturday.

Attorney General William Barr’s July hearing with the House Judiciary Committee was a brutal and long-awaited showdown between him and House Democrats that lasted for hours.

The hearing is the latest of Democrats’ attempts to curb Mr. DeJoy’s moves. They passed a bill Saturday that would undo the policy changes under his tenure and revert the agency to how it operated in January.

It also would give the financially struggling agency $ 25 billion.

Mr. DeJoy, during his testimony, said the postal service deserved more aid from Congress in addition to changes. During the pandemic, “we still delivered to 99% of the American homes and — with no revenue, no revenue,” he said. “We continued to do what we’re supposed to do and at a significant cost impact I believe we deserve some compensation for it.”

President Trump, though, slammed the bill as a “money-wasting hoax” intended to promote Democrats’ mail-in ballot push and argued the postal service did not need more funds.

Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said Democrats are trying to pass a “messaging bill” that won’t go anywhere. He said in earlier negotiations, he offered $ 10 billion and changes that the postal service had requested.

Mr. Meadows fumed at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for rejecting that and deviating from her stance on coronavirus negotiations.

“The speaker said she wasn’t willing to do anything piecemeal, and yet have a piecemeal piece of legislation on a Saturday,” Mr. Meadows said. “Hopefully what will happen is the Republican senators will take this bill when it comes across, they’ll amend it and address many of the things that are hurting America right now in terms of this pandemic response and be able to get it to the president’s desk.”

Mrs. Pelosi over the weekend said the postal bill was “an emergency, and it has policy in it.”

• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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