The House is set to vote Saturday on legislation that would block operational cutbacks to the United States Postal Service and add $25 billion in funding to help prop up the service ahead of the November elections, which is expected to see a surge of mail-in ballots.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows dismissed the Democratic plan as "partisan," according to Politico. "It's not only unrealistic, it's unnecessary," he told reporters Monday. Other Republicans have expressed support for providing the Postal Service with emergency funding.
The Postal Service has become a political flashpoint as President Trump has railed against voting by mail, which he has claimed without evidence could lead to widespread fraud.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor appointed to the position by Trump, has sparked controversy by instituting operational changes that he has described as necessary cost-reduction efforts. Critics suggest ulterior motives, and ethics watchdogs have raised concerns that DeJoy may have conflicts of interest since he hasn’t divested a multimillion-dollar stake in his former company, XPO Logistics, which processes mail for the Postal Service.
Post offices across the country have reported delays in mail delivery in recent weeks, and the Postal Service recently sent letters to 46 states and the District of Columbia warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for November’s elections will arrive in time to be counted, The Washington Post reported Friday.
Trump last week acknowledged that his efforts to block funding to the Postal Service would leave it unable to handle the increase in mail-in voting.
Democrats and others pounced on Trump’s comments as evidence that he is trying to “sabotage” the election and disenfranchise voters for political reasons, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the House to return from its August recess to vote on the Postal Service legislation.
The $25 billion Democrats are looking to provide the USPS is the same amount they included in a coronavirus relief bill that passed the House in May. Democratic leaders and White House negotiators had reportedly agreed to $10 billion in USPS funding during discussions about the next coronavirus relief package, but those talks broke down without the parties reaching a broader deal. Pelosi has emphasized that the Postal Service’s bipartisan, Trump-appointed board of governors had requested an emergency cash infusion of $25 billion earlier this year.
Trump indicated Friday that he would be open to providing more funding for the Postal Service, and more than $3 billion for mail-in balloting and other “election resilience” measures — but that’s if Congress agrees to his administration’s coronavirus relief plans. On Monday, Trump told “Fox & Friends” that he’s just trying to fix the Postal Service. “This has been one of the disasters of the world, the way it’s been run," he said. In a tweet later on, he added: “The U.S. Post Office (System) has been failing for many decades. We simply want to MAKE THE POST OFFICE GREAT AGAIN, while at the same time saving billions of dollars a year for American Taxpayers. Dems don’t have a clue!”
What’s next: Any legislation passed by the House would also have to clear the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday said Republicans are willing to provide more money to the Postal Service, even as he made clear he doesn’t share the concerns about election security raised by Trump. But he also gave no indication that he’s going to give in to pressure to have the Senate return from its recess to address the issue.
"The Postal Service is going to be just fine,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky. “We're going to make sure that the ability to function going into the election is not adversely affected and I don't share the concerns that the president ... has mentioned.” McConnell noted that the Trump administration has already indicated it is willing to provide $10 billion to shore up the Postal Service.
While the fate of the legislative effort is unclear, Democrats are also pursuing oversight investigations. DeJoy and Robert Duncan, the chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, have agreed to testify next week before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.