- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2020

President Trump on Thursday said a near-universal vote-by-mail system for the November elections won’t work without additional funding for the U.S. Postal Service, a Democratic demand the president said is holding up negotiations over the next coronavirus relief package.

Congressional Democrats have been pushing for $25 billion for the financially struggling postal service and an additional $3.5 billion for vote-by-mail efforts, which many states are moving to expand during the coronavirus pandemic.

“That’s actually [a] small part of a big negotiation,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “If the bill isn’t going to get done, that would mean the post office isn’t going to get funded and that would also mean that the $3.5 billion isn’t going to be taken care of, so I don’t know how you could possibly use these ballots, these mail-in ballots.”

He said he isn’t necessarily opposed to additional funding for the post office but said Democrats won’t get anything if they don’t agree to a broader deal.

“They can do it very easily. All they have to do is make a deal,” he said.

He said Democrats’ trillion-dollar demand for states and localities was a bigger sticking point.

“We’re open to something, but we’re not open to the kind of money that they need,” he said.

Still, the comments escalated a simmering battle between Mr. Trump and Democrats over the vote-by-mail push and helped confirm that the two sides are nowhere close to agreement on a broader relief package.

The Senate on Thursday effectively adjourned until after Labor Day, indicating that a breakthrough was not imminent.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president didn’t appear to be on the same page as his team and was “undermining the health of our democracy” with his comments on mail-in voting.

“There are people who think that the post office is central in this election,” the California Democrat said. “Maybe the president thinks that, too, and that is why he wants to shut it down.”

Democrats had included $25 billion for the Postal Service for lost revenue during the pandemic in the nearly $3.5 trillion relief package that passed the House in May.

House Democrats’ bill also included specific vote-by-mail provisions that would require mailed absentee ballots to be counted if they were postmarked by Election Day and would allow people to designate others to return their ballot if they couldn’t.

Democrats say the additional money is necessary to facilitate vote-by-mail so that people don’t have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote in November.

Mr. Trump has tried to distinguish between absentee voting, which typically requires voters to affirm that they have a disability or another valid reason why they can’t physically go to the polls, and vote-by-mail efforts in states across the country, where voters are automatically mailed a ballot or absentee application.

“Again, absentee good, universal mail-in, very bad,” he said on Thursday.

It appeared that Mrs. Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Mr. Trump’s representatives — Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — had settled on $10 billion for postal service in their most recent round of negotiations.

But White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the $3.5 billion request for vote-by-mail “fundamentally unserious.”

Ms. McEnany said states have been given more than $1.2 billion in election assistance grants since 2018 and still have more than $1 billion that hasn’t been spent.

Joseph R. Biden, Democrats’ likely presidential nominee, slammed Mr. Trump’s comments about post office funding.

“He doesn’t want an election,” Mr. Biden said.

Last week, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced an organizational overhaul to the postal service, prompting Democrats to raise questions about the timing and scope of the changes.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation this week that would bar the Postal Service from changing any levels of service that were in place at the beginning of the year until the pandemic is over.

“A once-in-a-century pandemic is no time to enact changes that threaten service reliability and transparency,” said Ms. Maloney, New York Democrat.

Mr. Trump has cited the glacial ballot-counting in Ms. Maloney’s congressional primary contest as an example of the potential perils of expanded vote-by-mail.

The Postal Service has said it isn’t slowing down mail service as a result of the changes.

“The Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time in accordance with our delivery standards, and we will do so,” Mr. DeJoy said.

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