- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 16, 2020

The House is set to return to Washington, D.C., from its summer vacation this week to try to block recent Postal Service changes as congressional Democrats push for U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify about the moves ahead of the November elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the scheduling change in a letter to her colleagues late Sunday in which she said President Trump is sabotaging the election by manipulating the Postal Service to “disenfranchise” voters.

The White House countered the fracas with calls for Democrats to return to negotiations for another coronavirus relief package that could include as much as $25 billion for the Postal Service.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat, announced an “urgent” Aug. 24 hearing about the Postal Service and invited Mr. DeJoy to testify.

“Your testimony is particularly urgent given the troubling influx of reports of widespread delays at postal facilities across the country — as well as President Trump’s explicit admission last week that he has been blocking critical coronavirus funding for the Postal Service in order to impair mail-in voting efforts for the upcoming elections in November,” Ms. Maloney said in a letter to Mr. DeJoy on Sunday.

She also wants to hear from Robert Duncan, chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors.

The Postal Service recently warned nearly every state that it can’t guarantee mailed ballots will be returned in time for them to count in the November elections.

Mrs. Pelosi said she wants the House to act on legislation from Ms. Maloney, New York Democrat, that would bar the Postal Service from changing operations or service levels that were in place at the beginning of the year until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Shortly after Mrs. Pelosi’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back into session.

“We must stop these destructive actions — no overtime, not filling positions that are empty, dismantling machines,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said earlier in the day.

Mr. Schumer’s office indicated that the House will likely reconvene Saturday, which falls in between the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Some Democrats called on Mr. DeJoy to resign.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., New Jersey Democrat, went a step further. He is asking New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to impanel a grand jury to consider criminal indictments against Mr. Trump and Mr. DeJoy for “electoral subversion.”

The Postal Service is always vital, but its importance has been magnified with many states expanding vote-by-mail because of the public health crisis.

In a Friday letter to Democratic leaders, Mr. DeJoy acknowledged that the recent changes have caused “unintended consequences” affecting service levels.

“As I stated to our employees, the Postal Service is working feverishly to address service problems, new and old, to improve performance for the election and the upcoming peak season,” he said.

Democrats’ demands for immediate action sparked questions about why they won’t try to jump-start stalled negotiations on a broader coronavirus relief package.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday that Mr. Trump would sign a comprehensive bill that included additional stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, and money for small businesses and the Postal Service.

“Will the president sign that? Yes, he will sign that,” Mr. Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I’m certain that whether it’s $10 billion or $25 billion or something in between, we can do that.”

House Democrats included $25 billion for the Postal Service in the nearly $3.5 trillion coronavirus relief package they passed in May. The bill also included $3.6 billion for grants to states to prepare for the fall elections.

The negotiating teams for congressional Democrats and the White House appeared to settle on $10 billion for the Postal Service but couldn’t strike a broader deal before the talks broke off. The House and Senate had since gone on vacation until after Labor Day.

Mrs. Pelosi said last week that Republicans were not serious about coronavirus relief.

“For months and even until now, [Republicans] have ignored the science. They called it a hoax,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “They are the hoax.”

Mr. Meadows said he is open to a stand-alone bill to rush money to the Postal Service.

“I’m all about piecemeal. If we can agree on postal, let’s do it. If we can agree on stimulus checks, let’s do it,” he said. “I have been the one that’s advocating for that. Speaker Pelosi is the one who says that she won’t do anything unless it’s a big deal.”

Mrs. Pelosi suggested late last week that Democrats would be willing to send Mr. Trump a stand-alone Postal Service funding bill.

Mr. Meadows said he guaranteed that Mr. Trump will not interfere with legitimate voting, whether it’s via mail or otherwise.

He said mail sorting machines will not be taken offline before Election Day and pointed out that efforts to overhaul the long-struggling Postal Service started well before Mr. Trump took office.

The Postal Service planned to remove almost 700 high-volume mail sorting machines, which was heavily criticized.

The president said multiple times last week that Democrats wouldn’t get money for the Postal Service without a broader deal and that expansive vote-by-mail efforts for the November elections would be logistically impossible without the additional money.

“They want money for the universal mail-in ballot. They’re not getting it. You know why? Because of them,” Mr. Trump said Saturday. “They need money, but they’re not willing to approve the money that they need.”

He praised Mr. DeJoy for trying to make the Postal Service “great again.”

At the behest of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, the USPS Office of Inspector General is looking into the recent changes, including the elimination of overtime and other moves that have slowed some mail delivery.

Mr. Trump took great care to distinguish between absentee voting, where people have to swear they have a valid reason why they can’t physically go to the polls, and policies in several states to automatically send mail-in ballots or absentee forms to all voters.

While no-excuse mail-in voting has spread during the coronavirus crisis, five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — had previously conducted elections entirely that way. More than half of the states and the District of Columbia offer no-excuse absentee voting.

Democrats say Mr. Trump’s comments about the Postal Service and mail-in voting are proof that the president is willing to cheat to win the election.

“I am deeply, deeply concerned about Trump’s effort to undermine American democracy by defunding the Postal Service,” Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign, said on the program that Mr. Sanders and other Democrats are being disingenuous.

“What really is going on here is they’re trying to change the rules and try to institute something that normally takes five to 10 years to put in place, and rush it through [in] five to 10 weeks,” he said.

⦁ Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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