Even for those voting in person, changes in the postal service could have an impact, through potential delays in cards and letters, delivery of prescription drugs and benefit checks and other particularly needed documents. during a pandemic.
“I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the country’s election mail safely and on time,” DeJoy said in his opening statement as a Senate committee dug in disruptions and changes in postal services. operations carried out during a pandemic and
“This sacred duty is my number one priority until election day. ”
US President Donald Trump praised the new Postal Service chief, donor and Republican ally. He also frequently criticized postal voting as being more prone to potential fraud, without citing evidence.
Democrats are warning that DeJoy’s cost-cutting initiatives since his arrival in June are causing upheaval that threatens the election. Trump raised the stakes by saying he wanted to freeze agency funds in order to make it harder for the Postal Service to manage the expected surge in mail-in ballots.
Other than a congratulatory call after taking on the role in May, DeJoy said he never spoke to Trump about the agency’s changes. He also said he had not discussed USPS operations with Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, or with Trump’s campaign team.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, dismissed the “false political narrative” that DeJoy is attempting to “sabotage” the election as he opens the session.
“This is Postmaster DeJoy’s laudable attempt to reduce those excess costs which are now cynically used to create this false political narrative,” said the Wisconsin senator.
Johnson said it was also untrue, as some media portrayed, that Trump installed DeJoy, who was chosen by the agency’s bipartisan board of governors.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose role in postal operations is questioned by Senate Democrats, said in a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer that he had no part in “recruiting.” or suggest »DeJoy for the job.
Since then, DeJoy said he had only spoken to Mnuchin in the broadest sense of wanting to implement changes that lead to efficiency gains to make the agency ‘self-sufficient’, citing budget deficits to come without them.
The Postal Service is in financial difficulty due to a drop in mail volume, rising costs from the coronavirus pandemic and a rare, and some say, onerous requirement for Congress to fund its benefits in advance health care for retirees.
But Democrats Gary Peters and Tom Carper of Delaware questioned the timing of the sweeping changes, highlighting hundreds of complaints from their constituents about delays in receiving mail.
They also complained that requests and calls for documents made in recent weeks to DeJoy and the agency were not returned, hampering their oversight function.
With growing pressure, DeJoy vowed last week to postpone any further changes until after the election, saying he wanted to avoid even the “perception” of any interference. The blue letter boxes have been removed, back-store sorting equipment has been stopped and overtime checked.
DeJoy testified on Friday that these type of dismissals occur regularly every year, implying that the incidents are gaining attention right now due to the anticipation of the election.
WATCH l The electoral mail could cause a delay of the results if the vote is closed:
He said overtime had “not been reduced by me or the management team,” and spending on overtime is at about the same rate as before the pandemic.
“I think the American people can feel comfortable that the Postal Service will respond to this election,” DeJoy told Republican James Lankford of Oklahoma.
But he also admitted another point: “The general word here is – vote early. ”
As he testified, six states filed suit against the postal service on Friday, saying service changes enacted in recent weeks had undermined states’ ability “to conduct free and fair elections.”
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Pennsylania, was also joined by California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
Saturday session called
House Democrats are moving forward with a rare session on Saturday to pass legislation banning stocks and sending $ 25 billion to shore up postal operations. About 20 states, as well as voting rights advocates, have filed a lawsuit to reverse the changes.
They’ll also have their own chance to grill DeJoy, in a House Oversight Committee hearing on Monday morning.
Listen | Representative Alma Adams speaks to CBC News about the sudden changes:
In a Washington Post Live interview Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Republicans “have been looking for the post office for a while” as they try to run it more like a profitable business. .
” A company? No, it’s a service, ”Pelosi said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is considering a $ 10 billion postal bailout as part of the upcoming COVID-19 relief program.
“La Poste is not in difficulty,” the Republican leader said Thursday. “We’re going to make sure they are able to deliver our ballots on time. “
Seen as a partisan choice
The choice of DeJoy to lead the service, the postmaster in nearly two decades who is not a career postal worker, is coming under increasing scrutiny.
A Republican donor, he previously owned a logistics company that had long been a postal service entrepreneur. He maintains high financial stakes in companies doing business or competing with the agency, raising conflict of interest issues.
In a statement, the Postal Service said DeJoy has made all required financial disclosures, but may have to divest some holdings in the event of a dispute.
DeJoy is the husband of Aldona Wos, who has been proposed as the next U.S. Ambassador to Canada, but has yet to be officially confirmed by Congress.