US House passes bill to overturn changes accused of mail delays

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WASHINGTON – With a heated debate over mail delays, the United States House approved legislation in a rare session on Saturday that would reverse recent changes in the operations of the U.S. Postal Service and send $ 25 billion to shore up the agency before the November elections. President Nancy Pelosi has recalled lawmakers in Washington over objections from Republicans dismissing the action as a coup. US President Donald Trump called for a no-vote, including in a tweet on Saturday, denouncing mail-in ballots set to rise in the COVID-19 crisis. He said he wanted to freeze the additional funds to the Postal Service.

“Pay no attention to what the president says because everything is designed to suppress the vote,” Pelosi told Capitol Hill.

Pelosi called the nation’s postal service a “fine thread” connecting Americans and said voters should “ignore” the president’s threats.

The one-day session came as an outcry over mail disruption puts the Postal Service at the center of the nation’s tumultuous election year, with Americans rallying around one of the country’s oldest and most popular institutions. country. Millions of people are expected to opt for postal ballots to avoid polling stations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the vote, the chairman tweeted, “It’s another HOAX. ”

More than two dozen Republicans broke with the president and supported the bill, which passed 257-150. Democrats led the approval, but the legislation is certain to wedge in the GOP-held Senate. The White House has said the president will veto it.

Faced with a backlash from operational changes, the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, told the Senate on Friday that his “No.1 priority” is to ensure that election mail arrives on time.

But the new post office chief, Trump ally, has said he will not reinstate the cuts to mailboxes and sorting equipment that have already been made. He could not provide senators with a plan to handle the crushing of the ballots for the election. DeJoy is expected to return on Monday to testify before the House Oversight Committee.

“The American people don’t want anyone laughing at the post office,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., chair of the oversight committee and the bill’s mover. “They just want their mail. ”

But Republicans retorted that complaints about mail delivery disruptions are overblown and that no emergency funding is needed at this time.

“This is a silly, stupid bill,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla said.

Despite the wish of the Postmaster General, the electoral mail will arrive on time, the Democrats remain skeptical. They have produced new reports showing declines in the postal service since it took over in June. DeJoy admitted during the Senate hearing that there had been a “dip” in service, but disputed reports of widespread problems. The Postal Service Board of Governors announced a bipartisan committee to oversee postal voting.

The bill would reverse the cuts by prohibiting any changes made after January and provide funding to the agency.

In a note to House Republicans, leaders mocked the legislation as a “conspiracy theory” postal act. Many GOP lawmakers echoed these sentiments during a heated debate on the ground.

“I love the post office, I really love it,” said Rep Glenn Grothman, R-Wis. But he said, “We don’t have a crisis here. ”

Nonetheless, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is considering a $ 10 billion postal bailout as part of the upcoming COVID-19 relief program. While Trump has said he wants to block emergency funding for the agency, the White House has said it will be open to more postal funding as part of a larger bill.

Hundreds of lawmakers returned to Washington for the weekend session, but dozens voted by proxy under House rules that allow them to stay away during the COVID-19 crisis. Another lawmaker, Representative Dan Meuser, R-Pa., Announced on Saturday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was at the Capitol Hill meeting on Saturday with GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy and other lawmakers, according to a Republican aide who was granted anonymity to discuss the private sessions.

The Postal Service has struggled financially due to a drop in mail volume, costs related to COVID-19, and a rare and onerous congressional requirement to fund its health care benefits in advance for retirees.

For many, the Postal Service provides a lifeline, delivering not only cards and letters, but also prescription drugs, financial statements and other items that are especially needed in the mail during the pandemic.

The Trump-appointed Board of Post Governors chose DeJoy to serve as Postmaster General. A GOP donor, he was previously the owner of a logistics company that was a longtime 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 certain holdings in the event of a dispute.

Republicans have long sought changes to make the agency operate more like a private company, and Trump often complains that the Postal Service should charge Amazon and other companies higher rates for package deliveries. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post, a publication Trump often scoffs at “fake news” for critical stories about him.

Others say the postal service shouldn’t be just a lucrative business, often delivering to remote places where it isn’t efficient to operate.

Associated Press editors Anthony Izaguirre in Charleston, W.Va., and Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.

The Associated Press produced this cover with support from Carnegie Corp. from New York.

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