The House of Representatives has approved legislation that allocates $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and freezes operational changes at the agency that Democrats argue have slowed mail delivery and are part of the Trump administration’s bid to undermine mail-in balloting ahead of the November election.
The bill, called H.R. 8015 (pdf), passed with 230 Democrats, joined by 26 Republicans, voting on Aug. 22 to adopt the legislation. Expectations are that the bill will fail in the Republican-led Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote in a tweet ahead of the vote that the bill is necessary to “reject the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the critical mission of the Postal Service.” Then, speaking on the floor, she said she hoped for a bipartisan vote to “reverse the Trump damage and provide $25 billion to the United States Postal Service.”
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the only Republican to co-sponsor the bill, said on the floor that he would vote for the bill, calling for cross-aisle unity to “address serious challenges USPS has been facing for quite some time now.”
Asserting that “the Democrats have manufactured another scandal for political purposes,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said on the floor that the bill was the “result of a legislative process only slightly less absurd than the conspiracies, insinuations, and fabrications that gave rise to the purported need for it.”
President Donald Trump had encouraged lawmakers to reject the bill, writing on Twitter, “This is all another HOAX by the Democrats to give 25 Billion unneeded dollars for political purposes, without talking about the Universal Mail-In Ballot Scam that they are trying to pull off in violation of everything that our Country stands for.”
Calling the Postal Service a “crucial link in the chain of custody between voters and state or local election boards,” Comer moved to add an amendment that would limit the new funding to operating expenses for postal staff salaries and protective equipment, and impose penalties on postal workers who tamper or interfere with election mail.
The motion failed ahead of the final passage of the bill.
The White House on Aug. 21 came out in strong opposition to the legislation, with the Office of Management and Budget saying if the measure reaches the president’s desk, it would recommend a veto.
The bill, which was sponsored by Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), calls for a range of actions including putting a freeze on any decommissioning of sorting machines, prohibiting reduction of post office hours and overtime, and “any change in the nature of postal services which will generally affect service on a nationwide or substantially nationwide basis.”
The freeze would be in effect until the end of the CCP virus pandemic or until Jan. 31, 2021, whichever comes first.
“This legislation will provide the $25 billion the Postal Service requested, which was supported unanimously by the Postal Service Board of Governors, all of whom were appointed by President Trump; and it will return delivery standards to the way they were before the Postmaster General’s sweeping changes,” Maloney said in a statement.
The White House in a statement (pdf) on Aug. 21 said it “strongly opposes” the bill, arguing that it would add to the agency’s woes by making it more vulnerable to lawsuits, while freezing reforms undertaken to set the financially beleaguered agency on a course of market viability and showering it “arbitrarily” with billions in taxpayer dollars.
“USPS does not need a $25 billion bailout. It needs reforms that will return it to a trend of longterm financial self-sufficiency,” the statement said, adding that the agency is in a strong cash position and has entered a deal with the Treasury Department to receive up to $10 billion in emergency funding if necessary to fund operations amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
“As a result, there is no reason to suspect that USPS, which handled an average of 2.7 billion pieces of mail per week in 2019, will have any difficulty handling mail volume associated with the 2020 election unless Congress puts in place new requirements that make this important work more difficult,” the statement reads, arguing further that the measure would “impose burdensome new requirements on USPS that would make it even harder for USPS to deliver election mail.”
Democrats have accused Trump of trying to squeeze USPS operations to suppress mail-in voting in November’s election, with the president being a vocal critic of vote-by-mail arrangements, arguing they are prone to fraud.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has long raised the alarm about the risks of mail-in ballot fraud, in its own database of all reported instances of election fraud, dating back to 1979, lists only 1,296 “proven instances of voter fraud.”
However, the organization’s communications manager told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that “the database is only intended to represent a small sampling of the types of voter fraud that can occur—it is by no means a comprehensive report of all the voter fraud that happens around the country.”
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said that the USPS is in a financially untenable position, but he maintains it can handle this year’s election mail.
DeJoy has introduced changes at the Postal Service, including cutting overtime and halting late delivery trips that are sometimes needed to ensure mail arrives on time, arguing they are needed to return the agency to financial and operational viability.
Democrats have denounced the changes, alleging that DeJoy’s cost-cutting initiatives and other changes might create problems during Election Day, as some states have unveiled plans to expand absentee ballots and mail-in voting in a bid to curb the spread of the CCP virus.
Following the outcry, DeJoy announced that he would freeze some operational changes to the USPS until the election is over.
“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” he said this week. DeJoy didn’t specify what initiatives he would be suspending and vowed to expand a task force on mail during the election.
In its statement, the White House criticized the bill as “an overreaction to sensationalized media reports that have made evidence-free accusations that USPS has undertaken reforms to achieve political rather than operational objectives.”
DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Aug. 24.