Democrats Step Up Pressure Against U.S. Postal Cuts, Pelosi Calls Lawmakers Back to Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
United States Postal Service, USPS
A United States Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier walks through heavy rain. (Reuters/Mike Segar/File Photo)

U.S. Democrats stepped up pressure on Sunday against a cost-cutting campaign by President Donald Trump’s appointed Postal Service chief that they fear will hold up mail-in ballots in November’s election, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling lawmakers back and several states considering legal action.

Top Democrats in Congress called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and another top postal official to testify this month at a hearing on a wave of cuts that has slowed mail delivery across the country, alarming lawmakers ahead of the Nov. 3 election when up to half of U.S. voters could cast ballots by mail.

Democrats have accused Trump, who is trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in opinion polls, of trying to hamstring the cash-strapped Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting.

Trump has repeatedly said that a surge in mail-in voting would lead to fraud. Voting by mail is nothing new in the United States, as one in four voters cast ballots that way in 2016.

Several Democratic state attorneys general told Reuters they were in discussions about potential legal action to stop Postal Service changes that could affect the election outcome.

Pelosi, the country’s top elected Democrat, said on Sunday she was calling the Democratic-controlled House back to Washington later this week to vote on legislation to protect the Postal Service from what she called Trump’s “campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters.”

A senior Democratic aide said House lawmakers would likely return on Saturday to vote on the bill, which would prohibit changes to Postal Service levels that were in place on Jan. 1, 2020.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there were no scheduling updates for the Republican-controlled Senate.

But Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate locked in a tight re-election race, said on social media that the Senate should return this week to consider legislation to provide the Postal Service with up to $25 billion in coronavirus funding.

Congressional Democrats also called on DeJoy, a Trump donor, and Postal Service Chairman Robert Duncan to testify at an Aug. 24 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

DeJoy did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump said on Thursday he had held up talks with Congress over a fresh round of coronavirus stimulus funding to block Democrats from providing more funds for mail-in voting and election infrastructure.

Trump later walked back those comments, saying he would not veto a bill that included funds for the Postal Service.

In an interview with Fox News Monday morning, Trump said he would support more voting booths, early voting and other efforts but reiterated his attacks against mail-in voting.

Trump defended his administration’s efforts to implement changes at the USPS ahead of November’s election, despite an outcry from Democrats and other critics, and said he would support efforts to expand in-person voting.

Trump said he wants the postal agency to “run efficiently.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN on Sunday that he was open to $10 billion to $25 billion in new postal funding. The House approved $25 billion in a bill passed in May.

Mark Dimondstein, head of the 200,000-plus-member American Postal Workers Union, said on Sunday the Postal Service’s Republican-dominated governing board sought more than $25 billion.

Appearing on Fox News, he said the service required emergency funds because of the coronavirus pandemic-driven economic slowdown, pointing out that it received no funds in a stimulus package passed in March.

“The Congress and this administration took care of the private sector to the tune of over $500 billion,” Dimondstein said. “The postal office did not get a dime. It’s time for Congress to act.”