House passes bill on postal funding
Package would halt changes to USPS, send agency $25B
WASHINGTON — With heated debate over mail delays, the House approved legislation in a rare Saturday session that would reverse recent changes in U.S. Postal Service operations and send $25 billion to shore up the agency ahead of theNovember election.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi had recalled lawmakers to Washington over objections from Republicans who dismissed the action as a stunt. President Donald Trump railed against mail-in ballots, including in a Saturday tweet, and urged a no vote. He has said he wants to block extra funds for the Postal Service.
“Don’t pay any attention to what the president is saying, because it is all designed to suppress the vote,” Pelosi said at the Capitol.
More than two dozen Republicans broke with the president and backed the bill, which passed 257-150. Democrats led approval, but the legislation is certain to stall in the GOP-held Senate. The White House said the president would veto it.
The daylong session came as an uproar over mail delays and potential interference puts the Postal Service at the center of the nation’s tumultuous election year, with Americans rallying around one of the nation’s oldest and more popular institutions. Millions of people are expected to opt for mail-in ballots to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.
Facing a backlash over operational changes, new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified Friday inthe Senate that his “No. 1 priority” is to ensure election mail arrives on time.
But thenewpostal leader, a Trump ally, said he would not restore the cuts to mailboxes and sorting equipment that have already been made. He could not provide senators with a plan for handling the ballot crush for the election. DeJoy is set to return Monday to testify before the House Oversight
“The American people don’t want anyone messing with the post office,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., the chair of the Oversight Committee and author of the bill. “They just want their mail.”
But Republicans countered that complaints about mail delivery disruptions are overblown, and no emergency funding is needed right now.
“It’s a silly, silly bill,” said Rep. TomCole, R-Okla.
Despite the postmaster general’s vow election mail will arrive on time, Democrats remained skeptical. They produced newreports showing declines in postal service since he took over in June.
DeJoy acknowledged at the Senate hearing there has been a “dip” in service, but disputed reports of widespread problems. The Board of Governors of the Postal Service announced a bipartisan committee to oversee mail voting.
The bill passed Saturday by the House reverses the cuts by prohibiting any changes made after January, andprovide funds to the agency.
But Republicans are mostly opposed, and the bill is certain to stall in the GOP-held Senate.
In a memo to House Republicans before the vote, leaders derided the legislation as a postal “conspiracy theory” act. Many GOP lawmakers echoed such sentiments during a lively floor debate.
“I like the post office, I really do,” said Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis. But he said, “We have no crisis here.”
Nevertheless, SenateMajority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is eyeing a $10 billion postal rescue as part of the next COVID-19 relief package. While Trump has said hewants to block emergency funding for the agency, the White House has said it would be open tomore postal funding as part of a broader bill.
Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was on Capitol Hill in a meeting Saturday with GOP House Leader KevinMcCarthy, RCalif., and other lawmakers, according to a Republican aide granted anonymity to discuss the private sessions.
The Postal Service has been struggling financially under a decline in mail volume, COVID-19-related costs and a rare and cumbersome congressional requirement to fund in advance its retiree health care benefits.
For many, the Postal Service provides a lifeline, delivering not just cardsand letters but also prescription drugs, financial statements and other items that are especially needed by mail during the pandemic.
Republicans have long sought to have the agency run more like a private company, and Trump often complains the postal service should be charging Amazon and other companies higher rates for package deliveries.
The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post — a publication that Trump frequently derides as “fake news” over critical stories of him.
Others say the Postal Service is not expected to be solely a moneymaking enterprise, often delivering to far-flung places where it is not efficient to operate.
Ignore “what the president is saying, because it is all designed to suppress the vote,” House Speaker Pelosi said Saturday.