The House of Representatives Saturday passed a $25 billion funding infusion to the United States Postal Service in a bill that also would reverse new cost-cutting measures and ban any efforts to slow down the mail until at least next year.
The vote was 257-150 with 26 Republicans joining the Democrats.
Democrats called the rare “emergency” session in the middle of the summer recess because they contend President Trump and new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are trying to sabotage the 2020 election by delaying service that could compromise mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are experiencing a global pandemic and now our U.S. Postal Service is under attack,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. “Let it be clear: This administration is waging an authoritarian campaign to sabotage this election by manipulating the postal service to suppress our votes … This is not a conspiracy theory. This is fascism. We will not stand for this.”
Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., said DeJoy is “a crony and major donor of the president.” Together, they have waged a campaign to disrupt the timeliness of mail delivery and erode public confidence in USPS that — if successful — would be “the largest voter suppression in American history since Jim Crow,” Connolly said.
Republicans dismissed the Democrats’ election concerns as “conspiracy theory.” GOP members said the Post Office is not in a crisis and can handle any uptick in volume from mail-in ballots, pointing to its $14 billion in available cash and access to a $10 billion loan from the Treasury.
“Like the Russia hoax and impeachment sham, the Democrats have manufactured another scandal for political purposes,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., said Democrats are using the USPS to gin up “a new Trump conspiracy theory” even though the president doesn’t control the Postmaster General.
“Seems insane, but all too typical for the Trump-hating Democrats,” Lesko said.
The legislation is not expected to go anywhere. The GOP-led Senate has no plans to take up the bill and the White House issued a veto threat on Friday saying USPS doesn’t need a $25 billion bailout.
Trump tweeted Saturday his opposition to funding for the Post Office and linked it to his objections to universal mail-in voting.
“Vote NO to the Pelosi/ Schumer money wasting HOAX which is taking place now,” Trump tweeted. “Then fight the $51 million unasked for Ballots. Only ABSENTEE BALLOTS are acceptable!”
The Delivering for America Act would prohibit reducing service hours at postal facilities, decommissioning mail sorting machines and removing community mailboxes. The bill would bar any limits on overtime pay, hiring freezes, delaying mail service and treating election mail as anything less than first-class mail.
The legislation also would reverse any cost-cutting measures that DeJoy implemented this year.
Democrats point to growing concerns from constituents over mail delays coinciding with postal changes on DeJoy’s watch. DeJoy rejected that any political motives were at play, but told the Senate Friday there has been a slowdown.
“We all feel bad about the dip in our service,” DeJoy said, adding that they working to fix the problems.
Under mounting pressure, a noisy protest at his DC home and alarm over the removal of blue collection boxes in communities, DeJoy Tuesday announced he was putting a pause on any service changes until after the election.
“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said.
But Democrats said DeJoy paused the changes only because he “was caught red-handed” and argued the emergency legislation was needed to bar him from undermining mail delivery and the 2020 election.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, produced a new internal USPS document on the House floor Saturday that she says revealed a significant drop in service standards at USPS since DeJoy implemented changes. The document was a presentation prepared for DeJoy on Aug. 12.
“To those who still claim there are ‘no delays’ and that these reports are just ‘conspiracy theories,’ I hope this new data causes them to re-think their position and support our urgent legislation today,” Maloney, D-N.Y., said.
Republicans took a couple of shots at Maloney during the debate, pointing to her primary race in New York City which took weeks to call as election officials struggled to count mail-in votes. They said her race should serve as a warning of the dangers of universal mail-in voting for the November election.
“If anyone should know, it should be the chairwoman of this committee who had to wait six weeks after the election day to get the results of her election,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio., who dismissed the House legislation as a political “charade.”
“Imagine what the Democrats want to do — throw live ballots out there to everyone.”
The Post Office has lost about $80 billion since 2007 through a decline of mail volume and a congressional requirement that the USPS pre-fund pension costs. The problems at the Post Office have been under the spotlight especially this year with the pandemic and greater reliance on mail-in services.
The USPS board requested the $25 billion in funding from Congress earlier this year and Democrats agreed. The funding was initially included in the $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill the House passed in May, but the HEROES Act died in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Republicans and the White House said the $25 billion isn’t needed and they took special issue with the language that blocks DeJoy from implementing any reforms at an agency that is losing money.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Trump “at no time has instructed or directed the Post Office to cut back on overtime, or any other operational decision that would slow things down.” He said the process of removing blue mail boxes and sorting machines started back in 2011 and the USPS has “more than enough money in the bank account.”
The vote Saturday, sandwiched between the Democratic and GOP conventions, got heated at times on the House floor.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said American democracy is more endangered now than during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because the country is more divided and the threat is coming from within.
“Today the greatest threat to our democracy is the current administration,” Lynch said of the Trump White House.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., shot back that Democrats are doing the damage to America. “The greatest threat to democracy in the country is the current majority in the House of Representatives,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to respond to constituents’ concerns on mail delays and take up the bill.
“Public sentiment is everything,” Pelosi said. “They’ll be hearing from their constituents because this hits home. Not receiving your mail in a timely fashion hits home. Not receiving your prescriptions, especially for our veterans, hits home in a way that is harmful to our country.”