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Pelosi calls House back to vote on Postal Service legislation

Democrats accuse postmaster general of sabotaging mail-in voting
Democrats accuse postmaster general of sabota... 02:11

Washington — Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday called on the House to return for a special session to vote on legislation that prohibits the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020. Lawmakers were notified by House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer on Monday the chamber is expected to meet Saturday "to consider legislation related to the United States Postal Service."

"Alarmingly, across the nation, we see the devastating effects of the President's campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters," Pelosi said in a letter to Democrats. "Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, one of the top Trump mega-donors, has proven a complicit crony as he continues to push forward sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail, and — according to the Postal Service itself — threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion." 

Democratic leaders in Congress have been ramping up the pressure on the U.S. Postal Service's top officials to answer questions about recent operational changes that have led to delays in mail delivery amid growing concerns many voters could be disenfranchised by late-arriving ballots.

The Democrats demanded new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on August 24, moving up the date of a hearing from mid-September, which DeJoy was asked to attend.

The committee said Monday that both DeJoy and Duncan had agree to appear voluntarily at the August 24 hearing, setting up a high-stakes confrontation with House lawmakers just weeks before the election.

The accelerated oversight hearing comes as union leaders and congressional Democrats have sounded the alarm over the backlog of mail and slowdown in delivery spurred by operational changes implemented by DeJoy, which they argue has led to dysfunction at the Postal Service. 

"The postmaster general and top Postal Service leaders must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election," Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Senate Homeland Security Committee ranking member Gary Peters said in a statement announcing the hearing.

Schumer also called on Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who leads the Senate Homeland Security panel, to urgently convene its own oversight hearing with DeJoy and Duncan. Schumer said DeJoy should be removed from his post if he refuses to testify.

"Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans cannot continue to ignore the problems DeJoy's reforms have caused or say a problem does not exist," he said. "Congress must step up and force the Postal Service to reverse these changes if the Postmaster General and the Board of Governors refuse to act."

The Postal Service has found itself under scrutiny since DeJoy, a major GOP donor and close ally of President Trump, assumed the position of postmaster general in June. In the weeks since he took the helm of the agency, DeJoy has implemented changes designed to save the cash-strapped Postal Service money, such as curtailing overtime, reorganizing the agency's top ranks and prohibiting postal workers from making extra trips for late-arriving mail.

But the changes have led to delays in mail delivery and a backlog of letters and parcels, leading Democrats and some Republicans to call for DeJoy's directives to be revoked due to concerns that prescriptions, bills and checks are not being delivered on time.

Lawmakers and election officials are also warning of the impact the operational shifts could have on the timely delivery of mail-in ballots, as many states have expanded vote-by-mail for the November election due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Postal Service confirmed Friday that in anticipation of the influx of mail-in ballots, it sent letters to 46 states warning mail-in ballots may not arrive in time to be counted.

Democrats said the possible delay in the delivery of ballots "constitutes a grave threat to the integrity of the election and to our very democracy."

"As House and Senate Democrats continue to respond urgently to address the sabotage of the Postal Service, House and Senate Republicans have been missing in action," the Democratic leaders said Sunday.

Democrats argue the changes at the Postal Service are part of Mr. Trump's efforts to kneecap the agency and make it more difficult for Americans to vote-by-mail, which he vehemently opposes. DeJoy, they argue, "has acted as an accomplice" to Mr. Trump.

While House Democrats approved in May a sweeping legislative package that would include $25 billion for the Postal Service and $3.5 billion for election assistance to states, Mr. Trump admitted Thursday that starving the agency of federal assistance would harm efforts to expand mail-in-voting.

But the president seemed to reverse course, telling reporters later Thursday he would not veto legislation that provided an injection of funding for the Postal Service.

On Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN's "State of the Union" that Mr. Trump "is not going to interfere with anybody casting their vote in a legitimate way, whether it's the post office or anything else."

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