Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accused Postmaster General Louis DeJoy of pushing through operational changes that degrade service at the U.S. Postal Service, which could threaten the ability of Americans to cast mail-in ballots in the General Election this November. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 16 (UPI) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the House to return to session this week for a vote on a bill to prevent the Trump administration from implementing changes to the U.S. Postal Service, accusing the president of attempting to sabotage November's general election by manipulating the delivery of the country's mail.
In a letter to her Democratic colleagues on Sunday evening, the California Democrat called for them to return to the House to oppose moves made to the USPS by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee, who she accused of pushing through "sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail and ... threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion."
"Alarmingly, across the nation, we see the devastating effects of the president's campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters," she wrote.
The letter was issued after Thomas Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president for the USPS, sent letters to 46 states and Washington, D.C., warning that some mail-in ballots might not be counted in time for the November election.
Internal documents obtained by news outlets including NBC News showed that DeJoy had ordered the decommissioning of 671 letter sorting machines.
Pelosi said delays caused by these alterations threaten not only the election but the health and economic security of Americans by delaying the delivery of medicines and payments amid the coronavirus pandemic, stating that 1.2 billion people receive prescriptions through the mail.
The date of the vote on the Delivering for America Act would be announced later, Pelosi said.
Introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the oversight and reform committee, the bill aims to bar the Postal Service from implementing any changes to the operation or level of service it had in place as of Jan. 1 until the pandemic has ended.
In a statement from Maloney's office, the bill's introduction followed a July 10 internal memo directed employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers, a second memo issued in early August calling for the restructuring of the service to centralize power around Dejoy and accusations about the financial interests of Dejoy and his wife of $30.1 million and $75.3 million in assets of competitors to the federal service.
Pelosi on Sunday also called for House representatives to appear at post offices in their districts to participate in a Day of Action on Tuesday.
"In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central," Pelosi wrote in her letter. "Americans should not have to choose between their health and their vote."
Republicans responded to Pelosi saying the legislation wasn't necessary and accusing the Democrats of inflaming the situation.
"House Democrats never miss a manufactured crisis to put partisan politics over people in need," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement.
Earlier Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows described reports that USPS sorting machines were decommissioned was a "political narrative," stating that no more machines would be dismantled in the lead up to the election.
Appearing on CNN's State of the Union Meadows said, "sorting machines between now and Election Day will not be taken offline."
On Saturday, USPS spokesman Rod Spurgeon issued a similar statement, saying the service would stop taking down mail collection boxes until after Election Day after it had begun the process earlier in the week, targeting boxes in Indiana, Montana, New York and Oregon.
Congressional Democrats, including Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Maloney, and Sen. Gary Peters, ranking member of the Senate committee on homeland security and governmental affairs, requested that DeJoy and Chairman of the USPS Board of Governors Robert Duncan testify at in an urgent hearing on Aug. 24.
"The postmaster general and top Postal Service leadership must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election," they wrote.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly spoken out against the mail-in ballot process, alleging it will lead to widespread fraud.
DeJoy, a Trump donor who was appointed by the president amid the pandemic in May, said the USPS still has "ample capacity" to handle the anticipated surge of mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic despite implementing policies such as cutting overtime for mail carriers and removing letter collection boxes that appear to have slowed the mail delivery process.
Meadows on Sunday asserted that all sorting machines not part of an "already scheduled reallocation" would remain in place and that the decommissioning was not "new initiative by this postmaster general."
He also downplayed the importance of sorting machines in handling the increased volume of ballots traveling through the postal system.
"A sorting machine to handle 100 million ballots, it's like a gnat on an elephant's back," he said. "It's not going to matter with 8.6 billion pieces of mail going through the Postal Service every year."
Meadows called on Congress to cut its recess short and return to Washington, D.C, to negotiate funding for the USPS as well as additional coronavirus stimulus measures, saying Trump would be open to signing such legislation.
"I'm all about piecemeal. If we can agree on postal, less let's do it," Meadows said. "Speaker Pelosi said she won't do anything unless it is a big deal. We offered $10 billion."
Schumer told CNN on Sunday he and Pelosi are "looking at having a standalone bill" to fund the Postal Service.
"Speaker Pelosi and I are looking at having a standalone bill. The house -- she can call it back into session, she can do that, I hope she will," he said, adding he would send Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell a letter requesting to call the Senate back into session.