POST­MAS­TER: ELEC­TION MAIL WILL GO THROUGH DE­SPITE CUTS

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION / WORLD - BY LISA MASCARO, AN­THONY IZAGUIRRE AND CHRISTINA A. CAS­SIDY

WASH­ING­TON — New Post­mas­ter Gen­eral Louis DeJoy said Fri­day he has no plans to re­store mail­boxes and other agency cuts made since he took over in June, spark­ing fresh ques­tions over how the Postal Ser­vice will en­sure timely de­liv­ery of an ex­pected surge of mail-in bal­lots for the Novem­ber elec­tion.

It was DeJoy’s first time pub­licly an­swer­ing ques­tions since sum­mer mail de­lays brought a pub­lic out­cry. Tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore a Se­nate com­mit­tee, the ally of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said it was his “sa­cred duty” that bal­lots ar­rive on time. But he told sen­a­tors he did not yet have a plan for han­dling a crush of elec­tion mail.

From the White House, Trump de­liv­ered fresh com­plaints over the mail-in bal­lots ex­pected be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. As he did, the House pushed ahead with plans for a rare Satur­day vote to block the postal cut­backs and fun­nel $25 bil­lion to shore up op­er­a­tions.

DeJoy de­clared that the Postal Ser­vice “is fully ca­pa­ble and com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing the na­tion’s elec­tion mail se­curely and on-time.” He dis­tanced him­self from Trump’s ob­jec­tions about widescale mail-in vot­ing and said en­sur­ing bal­lots ar­rive was his “No. 1 pri­or­ity be­tween now and Elec­tion Day.”

The new post­mas­ter gen­eral, a Trump donor who took the job at the start of sum­mer to re­vamp the agency, is fac­ing a back­lash over changes since his ar­rival. Democrats warn his cost-cut­ting ini­tia­tives are caus­ing an up­heaval that threat­ens the elec­tion.

With mount­ing pres­sure, DeJoy promised this week to post­pone any fur­ther changes un­til af­ter the elec­tion, say­ing he wanted to avoid even the per­cep­tion of in­ter­fer­ence. A num­ber of blue mail­boxes have been re­moved, back-of­shop sort­ing equip­ment has been shut down and over­time hours have been lim­ited.

But DeJoy told sen­a­tors he has no plans to re­store the equip­ment, say­ing it’s “not needed.” And he stood by a new rule that lim­its late de­liv­ery trips, which sev­eral postal work­ers have said is a ma­jor cause of de­liv­ery de­lays. He vowed more changes are com­ing to postal op­er­a­tions af­ter Novem­ber.

Trump has said he wants to block agency emer­gency fund­ing that would help the ser­vice han­dle a great in­crease in mail-in bal­lots.

At Fri­day’s hear­ing, DeJoy said he’d had “no idea” equip­ment was be­ing re­moved un­til the pub­lic out­cry.

Now that it’s widely known, Democrats pressed him for his plan to en­sure elec­tion mail and bal­lots ar­rive on time.

“Do you have a more de­tailed plan?” de­manded Sen. Mag­gie Has­san of New Hamp­shire, ask­ing for it by Sun­day.

“I don’t think we’ll have a com­plete plan by Sun­day night,” DeJoy replied, ac­knowl­edg­ing it was just be­ing formed.

Mean­while, at­tor­neys gen­eral in Penn­syl­va­nia, Cal­i­for­nia, Delaware, Maine, Mas­sachusetts, North Carolina and Wash­ing­ton D.C., filed a law­suit on Fri­day to halt the changes.

Post­mas­ter Gen­eral Louis DeJoy tes­ti­fies Fri­day dur­ing a vir­tual hear­ing be­fore the Se­nate Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee on the U.S. Postal Ser­vice. U.S. SE­NATE COM­MIT­TEE ON HOME­LAND SE­CU­RITY & GOV­ERN­MEN­TAL AF­FAIRS VIA AP

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