The House Oversight Committee will hold an emergency hearing on mail delays and concerns about potential White House interference in the U.S. Postal Service, inviting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Service board of governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan to testify Aug. 24, top Democrats announced on Sunday.
“The postmaster general and top Postal Service leadership 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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Oversight Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said in a statement announcing the hearing.
The Postal Service is beset with delays because of policy changes implemented by DeJoy, a former logistics executive and ally of President Trump. DeJoy banned postal workers from making extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery and cracked down on overtime hours. Localities across the country have struggled with USPS backlogs of up to a week, hamstringing local businesses and delaying the arrival of crucial mail items, including prescription medications, Social Security checks and bills.
The Postal Service is in the process of removing 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines nationwide this month, a process that will eliminate 21.4 million items per hour’s worth of processing capability from the agency’s inventory.
On Thursday and Friday, it began removing public collection boxes in parts of California, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. The agency said Friday that it would stop mailbox removals, which it said were routine, until after the election.
And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that it would also halt sorting-machine removals.
Meadows also said the White House is open to Congress passing a stand-alone measure to ensure the U.S. Postal Service is adequately funded to manage a surge in mail voting in November.
“The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their votes in a legitimate way whether it’s the post office or anything else,” he said.
Both statements would appear to step back from the president’s comments Thursday when he said he opposed Postal Service funding because he wanted to restrict expanding voting by mail.
Meadows insisted the president is only opposed to states sending ballots directly to all registered voters — not to a more common practice in which states send mail ballots only to registered voters who request them. Trump, however, attacked all forms of mail voting for months before recently dialing back his criticism in particular states, including Florida, where he voted by mail himself this year.
“The president doesn’t have a problem with anybody voting by mail if you would look at it in terms of a no-excuse absentee ballot,” Meadows said. “What he opposes is universal mail-in ballots."
There are five states that voted nearly entirely by mail before the pandemic and four more that have announced plans to do so since the pandemic hit. Meadows suggested more states will attempt to shift to sending ballots directly to all registered voters between now and the election.
“This is more about states trying to re-create how they get their ballots and they’re trying to do it on a compressed timeline that won’t work,” he said.
Calls had grown in recent days from within the Democratic caucus for Pelosi and Maloney to get more aggressive on postal oversight.
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The committee invited DeJoy to an earlier hearing Aug. 7, but he declined to appear, citing a conflict with the Postal Service’s quarterly board of governors meeting, according to committee staff.
The committee last month scheduled a meeting with DeJoy on Sept. 17, but Democrats began privately voicing displeasure last week to leadership that as the postmaster general continued making changes in mail delivery, that the chamber would not have an opportunity to cross-examine him for another month.
That led Pelosi on Saturday to float calling the House back into session to take up postal legislation. The House is not set to return until after Labor Day. The committee can conduct the hearing without Pelosi calling members back to work.