House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that she will call members of the House of Representatives back to Congress to vote on a bill that will halt changes to the United States Postal Service.
The United States Postal Service (USPS), one of America’s oldest and least political agencies, has become the subject of debate in recent weeks as the nation gears up for an election that may be heavily determined by mail-in ballots. While President Trump has derided mail-in voting, claiming (without evidence) that it will lead to massive voter fraud, the realities of a general election during an ongoing pandemic have made it an attractive option for those who do not want to risk their health by showing up to a packed polling location.
But the USPS is floundering. Last week it was reported that eighteen states, including electoral battlegrounds like Michigan, Florida, and Arizona, received letters from the Postal Service warning that the agency could not guarantee timely delivery of mail-in ballots.
“Deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards,” read the letter, written by USPS general counsel Thomas Marshall. In other words, voters who request a mail-in ballot too close to Election Day, or who send their ballots back too close to Election Day, may become disenfranchised if their ballots don’t make it to election offices on time.
Furthermore, USPS members have been sounding the alarm for months about processing delays in connection to reforms put in place by the new Postmaster General. Louis DeJoy, a megadonor to the Trump campaign who assumed the office in June, has already taken steps to slim the Postal Service’s capacity. That includes banning overtime pay, which has caused delivery backups as well as the removal of at least 19 mail sorting machines from post offices across the country. Another 671 are slated for removal later this year. That may seem petty, but each machine is capable of processing 35,000 pieces of mail per hour.
While DeJoy claims that he acts only at the behest of the nonpartisan USPS Board of Governors, that does not pass muster for some in Washington. Rep. Ted W. Lieu of California, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, both Democrats, have cosigned a letter to the FBI, urging the bureau to investigate political motivations for DeJoy’s actions.
“Multiple media investigations show that Postmaster DeJoy and the Board of Governors have retarded the passage of mail,” they wrote. “If their intent in doing so was to affect mail-in balloting or was motivated by personal financial reasons, then they likely committed crimes.”
Despite anxieties, most experts agree that the Postal Service has the financial ability to continue operations at least through the end of the year. But that doesn’t placate concerns about timely mail delivery. There remains no guarantee that mail-in ballots will make it in time to be counted in the election.
Still, voices from both political parties have acknowledged the Postal Service’s plight. While President Trump maintains a hardline against any coronavirus relief package that includes a massive bail-out for the USPS, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows signaled openness to providing emergency funding to the service, according to The New York Times.
Furthermore, Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican in a tight campaign for reelection, has tweeted her support for emergency USPS funding. Referring to bipartisan action with California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Collins tweeted:
The Senate should return this week to consider a COVID-19 package that includes the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act—a bill I introduced w/ @SenFeinstein in July—which would provide USPS w/ up to $25 billion to cover losses or operational expenses resulting from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader and a New York Democrat, has called upon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to mirror Nancy Pelosi’s actions.
“I call on Leader McConnell to bring the Senate back into session to quickly act on the House’s legislation that will undo the extensive damage Mr. DeJoy has done at the Postal Service,” Schumer said in a statement the Postal Service must ensure “that people can get their paychecks, medicines, and other necessities delivered on time,” in addition to ensuring that “our elections will remain completely free and fair.”