On Saturday, August 22, the House of Representatives passed an emergency funding bill for the U.S. Postal Service. The Delivering for America Act (H.R. 8015) appropriated $25 billion to the USPS, would reverse operational changes made after January 1, 2020, that have slowed down mail delivery, and would require the USPS to prioritize election mail as first-class mail.
The bill passed 257 to 150, with 26 Republicans joining Democrats to support the legislation. President Trump and GOP leaders opposed the bill.
The vote came after Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the House back from its August recess in the midst of outrage over mail slowdowns following Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s operational and service changes to the USPS.
Following an announcement on August 18 that 20 attorneys general are suing DeJoy and the USPS over the operational changes, DeJoy said he would halt further changes to the USPS until after the presidential election. Democrats and attorneys general say DeJoy’s concession does not go far enough to reverse changes already made and that more accountability is needed.
DeJoy, who assumed office in June 2020, recently implemented cost-cutting measures including limits on overtime, reductions in operating hours, and the removal of mail sorting machines. Democrats have accused DeJoy of deliberately slowing mail delivery in an attempt to disenfranchise voters using mail-in ballots in the upcoming Presidential election, something DeJoy denies.
Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) who chairs the House Oversight Committee and introduced the bill commented, “We want the Postmaster General to undo the damage he has already done. Every member of Congress should support this bill.”
The bill is unlikely to pass or even be brought to the floor of the Senate given the Republican opposition to the measure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responded to the bill’s House passage calling it “a totally piecemeal postal bill.” Further, McConnell stated that there are “overblown conspiracy theories” about threats to the USPS.
Over the past week, DeJoy has testified twice in front of Congress, at both Senate and House Committees.
On Friday, August 21, DeJoy appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where he said the USPS would not replace collection boxes and mail sorting machines that have already been removed. At the same time, Dejoy said the USPS has the capacity to process an influx of mail-in ballots for the presidential election.
This contradicted claims by President Trump, who has said that insufficient funds will mean the USPS cannot process universal mail-in voting; President Trump has admitted that part of his opposition to a USPS funding bill is due to his opposition to the public using mail-in ballots, despite the fact he and members of his administration frequently use mail-in ballots themselves.
On Monday, August 24, DeJoy testified before the House Oversight Committee where he again said that he will not restore the mail sorting machines and that the USPS will be able to handle an influx of mail-in ballots. This is despite evidence presented by the committee showing that mail service has slowed since July. DeJoy also instructed voters to request and return ballots early.
In regards to the operational changes at the USPS, DeJoy said many of the changes had been proposed before he became Postmaster General and that the changes had been made by lower-level managers. According to DeJoy, he did instruct mail trucks to operate according to a schedule, even if it means leaving without a full truckload of mail. DeJoy testified that the USPS will overcome the current service interruptions.
Booksellers are encouraged to contact their lawmakers to reiterate the importance of the USPS to small independent retailers, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those interested in penning an op-ed can contact ABA’s Advocacy Team at [email protected] for a template.