House passes bill on postal fund­ing

Pack­age would halt changes to USPS, send agency $25B

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - NATION&WORLD - By Lisa Mascaro and Matthew Daly

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

Com­mit­tee.

“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.

SUSANWALSH/AP

Ig­nore “what the pres­i­dent is say­ing, be­cause it is all de­signed to sup­press the vote,” House Speaker Pelosi said Satur­day.

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