Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Friday began his testimony on Capitol Hill in front of a Senate panel following complaints and criticisms about delivery delays and operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service. The testimony comes after Democrats sought to tie those allegations to a possible disruption to mail-in voting during November’s election.
DeJoy, in remarks to the panel via a live stream, called on Congress to pass a bill “that would provide the Postal Service with financial relief to account for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our financial condition,” while saying that it is his “sacred duty” to ensure election mail delivery.
“I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on-time,” the postmaster general stated, adding that it is his “No. 1 priority between now and Election Day.”
Later on in the hearing, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) asked about whether mail-sorting machines that were removed under his watch would be brought back. “There’s no intention to do that, they’re not needed, sir,” he replied, adding: “We removed about 700 collection boxes, of which I had no idea that that was a process.” He made similar comments about the removal of mail-sorting machines.
“When I found out about it,” he told the panel. “We looked at the excitement it was creating so I decided to stop it and we’ll pick it up after the election.”
Democrats have alleged 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 (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Following the outcry, DeJoy announced that he would halt some of the 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. He did not say what initiatives he would be suspending. DeJoy added he would also expand a task force on mail during the election.
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy assured in the press release. The agency also will have more resources ready starting on Oct. 1.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, dismissed the claims on Friday that DeJoy and the Trump administration are trying to sabotage the election as a “false political narrative” manufactured by Democrats.
“It is Postmaster DeJoy’s commendable attempt to reduce those excess costs that are now being cynically used to create this false political narrative,” he said.
When DeJoy, a Republican donor, assumed the postmaster general position, the USPS was facing complaints from President Donald Trump and others that it was hemorrhaging money. It was also already facing complaints about delayed packages and mail, as more people started shopping online in the midst of the CCP virus pandemic.
While a number of lawmakers and media have painted DeJoy as having been chosen by the Trump administration, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a letter that he did not recruit or suggest that DeJoy take the job.
“In fact, I was surprised to learn that Mr. DeJoy was a candidate for the position,” Mnuchin wrote in a letter, according to The Associated Press.
David Williams, former USPS Inspector General and former Vice Chair of the USPS Board of Governors, said on Thursday he left the board “when it became clear to me that the administration was politicizing the Postal Service with the treasury secretary as the lead figure for the White House in that effort.”
The House, led by Democrats, is scheduled to hold a vote on Saturday on a bill that would prohibit operational changes to the Postal Service and provide the agency with $25 billion in funding. Then, on Monday, the House Oversight Committee will question DeJoy and board of governor’s chief Robert Duncan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alleged to reporters that DeJoy, however, has no plans to reverse changes to infrastructure.
“The Postmaster General frankly admitted that he had no intention of replacing the sorting machines, blue mailboxes and other key mail infrastructure that have been removed and that plans for adequate overtime, which is critical for the timely delivery of mail, are not in the works,” she said, saying she spoke to him on Wednesday.