postal service

Pelosi Recalls Congress to Try to Undo USPS Damage

Remember when you didn’t have to think about the mail? Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will reconvene a vacationing Congress this week to attempt to roll back changes at the U.S. Postal Service put into place by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who has become the target of widespread Democratic scorn over the past few days. Pelosi has accused President Trump of trying to undermine the Postal Service in order to “sabotage the election.”

Members of Congress will probably return to Washington this weekend, as Pelosi urges them to vote on a bill sponsored by Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. The bill would freeze any changes made after January 1, 2020 through the end of this year.

The bill most likely won’t become law, with the GOP–led Senate showing no sign of following suit. But it will serve as a symbol of Democrats’ discontent around an issue that has quickly galvanized people. Protesters have gathered outside DeJoy’s house, several Democrats have called on DeJoy to resign, and two congressmen — Ted Lieu and Hakeem Jeffries — have requested a criminal inquiry into his actions.

DeJoy, a Trump mega-donor and businessman who took over the USPS in May, almost immediately introduced new policies — including cutting back overtime and discouraging extra trips by USPS employees — that he says are intended to make the money-losing (but mostly reliable) agency more competitive. However, some of DeJoy’s policies have had the effect of slowing down the mail for many Americans. The Postal Service has also ordered the removal of some sorting machines, which help with counting large volumes of mail (including ballots), and removed mailboxes in some areas — a practice it says it will discontinue, for now. The agency claimed that the moves were standard practice. But amid an atmosphere of increasing paranoia and distrust surrounding a bedrock American institution, they caused an outcry. On Sunday, President Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows denied that anything irregular was going on and said that no sorting machines will be taken out of commission between now and November — though it’s unclear whether that’s true.

Taken together, the changes have magnified fears that the U.S. Postal Service may be unable to properly handle the anticipated deluge of requested and returned mail-in ballots in the fall — creating conditions ripe for electoral chaos.

The agency itself is sounding the alarm. Last month, the USPS warned 46 states and Washington, D.C. that it could not guarantee ballots requested close to election day would be returned in time to meet states’ election deadlines.

As mail volume has plummeted during the pandemic, the USPS is more cash-strapped than ever and is seeking $25 billion in funding from the federal government. But any new money has been held up, with Democrats and Republicans in disagreement about any new stimulus package. On Friday, Trump explicitly said that he is denying the agency money in order to curtail voting by mail. The White House attempted to walk back that assertion over the weekend, but given the president’s conspiracy-laden stance on the issue, he is unlikely to quell anyone’s fears.

On Monday, President Trump denied that he was doing anything untoward with the Postal Service, telling reporters “we have a very, very good business guy” running it — before spouting his usual election misinformation, claiming that universal mail-in voting is a recipe for electoral disaster.

Pelosi Recalls Congress to Attempt to Undo USPS Damage