by Sonali Muthukrishnan
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform called Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify at a hearing on Mon., Aug. 24. In recent weeks, DeJoy made critical changes to the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) operational and organizational systems. The House Committee questioned DeJoy on these changes, which could slow mail, reduce delivery standards, and make it more difficult for American voters to mail in their ballots.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, scrutinized the effectiveness of the USPS, stating, “When we asked post leaders about these delays, they downplayed them, they dismissed them as temporary. They discounted them as minor, unintended consequences of reforms being put in place. But then we saw national headlines describing these delays in much more detail… this list goes on and on.”
Maloney referenced an internal postal service document – PMG Briefing – a presentation from approximately two weeks ago. The document, made for the postmaster general, warned that widespread delays in mailing are not temporary. It has evidence that the delays allegedly started in July when DeJoy began making changes in the USPS’s operation and organization. Maloney revealed that DeJoy currently owns stock from companies that directly compete with the USPS. She also noted that the Postal Service Inspector General began an investigation into DeJoy’s recent changes.
In DeJoy’s opening statement, he explained, “I want to begin by assuring this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s ballots, securely and on time. This sacred duty is my number one priority between now and election day.”
DeJoy went on to say that many perceived misconceptions surrounded his actions. He explained that he did not order the removal of blue collection boxes or mail-processing equipment, the cut back on hours at USPS, or eliminate cutbacks or overtime.
In DeJoy’s testimony, he explained that although he didn’t make these changes, he decided to suspend these practices until after Nov. 3. DeJoy hopes that halting these recent changes will remove any Americans’ misconceptions about the USPS and its commitment to delivering the nation’s election mail. He also stated that the financial situation of the Postal Service is unacceptable and needs fixing. While delays are currently occurring, DeJoy emphasized that the USPS is working hard to prevent them.
Prior events addressed by the hearing included the Senate testimony that occurred on Aug. 21 and the legislation Congress approved on Aug. 22. The Congressional measure stops all USPS operational changes and funding cuts, and it also forces the Postal Service to make election-related mail the top priority. The bill grants the USPS 25 billion dollars to address the lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pay for the upcoming election’s resources. Democrats and 26 Republicans passed the legislation with a vote, 257 to 150. While Congress approved it, the bill is unlikely to pass through the Republican-controlled Senate unchanged.
During questioning, Maloney accused DeJoy of withholding the PMG document and analysis, which showed a decline in the service of the USPS in the last 70 days, from the Senate and Congress. DeJoy responded that on-time Postal Service mail trucks were not a policy change, but merely a request. He stated that there were many other reasons for the delays not related to the changes that he made, but he did not specify the other reasons behind these delays.
Expressing his frustration on the matter, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass) said, “After 240 years of patriotic service, delivering the mail, how can one person screw this up in just a few weeks… What the heck are you doing?”
Furthermore, DeJoy made it clear that the management team’s goal is to make the Postal Service self-sufficient, and they have developed plans to make this a reality. DeJoy took away the mail-sorting machines because “they were not needed.” He testified that the Postal Service is planning to bring in extra resources to help with mail-in voting for the election: overtime, additional truck trips, postal inspection checks, and rounds in each postal processing facility.
In his statement, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) explained, “I think we all know what this is about, these guys want chaos and confusion because they know that on election night President Trump is going to win…they want to keep counting.” Rep. James Comer (R-NY) highlighted that blue box removals occurred during the Obama-Biden administration, yet the Postmaster General did not face criticism for this decision. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Florida) supported Jordan’s view, saying, “It’s unfortunate that there are Democrats on this committee that have 100 percent politicized the Postal Service to try to stoke fear with the American people.”
In his testimony, DeJoy noted COVID-19 had had an impact on employee availability. He also stated that he requested that the USPS mitigate its extra trips. This change, along with on-time trucks and removed mail-sorting machines, were the only alterations that DeJoy acknowledged he made. He made these changes in hope of making the USPS more efficient and self-sufficient. DeJoy will suspend these recent changes until the election on Nov. 3.
(Sources: Oversight House Website, Congress Website, C-SPAN, New York Times)
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