In addition to $10 billion in emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service, Democratic congressional leaders are demanding as a necessary condition in Covid-19 relief talks the immediate reversal of new policies imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that have caused major delays in mail delivery across the nation, slashed Post Office hours, and caused concerns about the timely arrival of mail-in ballots.
After meeting with DeJoy—a major donor to President Donald Trump—on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a press briefing that Democrats "are going to push for both the money and rescinding those rules that would get in the way of all the ballots being counted."
Schumer described the meeting with DeJoy as "heated" and said the former corporate executive failed to adequately explain the rationale behind his new policies, which have drawn outrage and formal complaints from postal workers as well as an investigation in the Senate.
"I'm hearing from postal workers, folks who are actually in the post offices, that are saying that mail has been left sitting and processing facilities, sometimes for up to a week. They are doing things that they never did before."
—Sen. Gary Peters
"We told him that elections are sacred, and to do cutbacks at a time when the ballots—all ballots have to be counted. You can't say, 'Oh, well, we'll get 94 percent of them' is insufficient," said Schumer. "We are demanding that the regulations they put in place, which cut employment and cut overtime, be rescinded, particularly because of Covid and because of the elections... And that is a sine qua non for us."
The Democrats' new demand came as a deal with the White House on the next Covid-19 relief package remained elusive, with the two sides far apart on unemployment insurance, funds for state and local governments, money for election assistance and schools, and other key issues.
"I feel optimistic that there is a light at the end of the tunnel," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during the briefing Wednesday. "But how long that tunnel is, remains to be seen."
With the Postal Service struggling to survive a financial crisis manufactured by Congress and intensified by the coronavirus pandemic, voting rights advocates have warned that the Trump administration could be attempting to exploit the crisis to push the agency toward privatization and undermine its ability to deliver ballots on time in the November elections.
DeJoy was selected to serve as postmaster general in May by the USPS Board of Governors—which is controlled by Trump appointees—despite having zero experience working for the Postal Service. After taking charge in June, DeJoy wasted no time rushing ahead with major operational changes that have caused massive mail backlogs across the nation, leaving people to wait weeks for medicine and other packages.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) told the Washington Post Wednesday that he is launching an investigation into DeJoy's new policies, one of which bars postal workers from sorting mail before their morning trips—a major change that has reportedly contributed to significant mail delays.
"If policies are being put in place right now to actually slow down the delivery of the mail, that would be outrageous," Peters said. "I'm hearing from postal workers, folks who are actually in the Post Offices, that are saying that mail has been left sitting and processing facilities, sometimes for up to a week. They are doing things that they never did before."
"And then I'm hearing from constituents that their mail is being delayed in a way that they have not experienced in the past," Peters added. "That raises a lot of questions that need to be answered."