No honeymoon in Washington for new PMG DeJoy
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is discovering that there is no honeymoon in Washington, D.C., for a political newcomer.
In office barely two months, DeJoy has come under sharp fire by Democrats in Congress who are furious over the former North Carolina business executive’s first actions as the nation’s 75th postmaster general.
It’s quite a change from the days of previous postmasters general trying to get Congress to pay attention to the U.S. Postal Service and its troubles.
At issue now is whether DeJoy is forcing the U.S. Postal Service “to deliberately delay mail deliveries.”
That’s the way Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., put it in a July 14 press release. He said, “If these reports are accurate, Trump and his cronies are openly seeking to destroy the post office during the worst public health crisis in a century.”
Pascrell believes the new postmaster general is deliberately trying to delay mail deliveries through some cost-cutting measures he has urged in a message to all postal employees.
A big financial supporter of the president, DeJoy was appointed postmaster general by a board composed of Trump appointees.
Pascrell accused the Trump administration of trying to “destabilize the post office,” what he called “Trump USPS Sabotage” in the press release.
What infuriated Pascrell was DeJoy’s attempt to put some controls on the Postal Service’s soaring costs, telling workers to leave some mail undelivered if they cannot get it dispatched on time from the post office.
It’s DeJoy’s first effort to curb overtime spending at the USPS, an item that is not small change.
Overtime was a $5.2 billion cost in fiscal 2019, according to postal financial reports.
Democracy Initiative, a coalition of 75 organizations, charged that DeJoy’s plan “is unfair — and dangerous — for millions of Americans who rely on the mail for food, medicine, medical supplies, unemployment checks and other critical mail and packages.”
The Chicago Sun-Times accused DeJoy of having “effectively ordered his troops to purposely delay mail delivery to save on overtime costs.”
Asked to comment on charges that DeJoy was threatening to delay mail, especially election mail, USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said: “The Postal Service is committed to delivering Election Mail in a timely manner.”
“We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all Election Mail, including ballots,” he said. “This includes close coordination and partnerships with election officials at the local and state levels.”
”We will run our operations on time and on schedule, which will result in affordable, efficient and reliable service,” Partenheimer said.
He noted that the USPS is developing a new business plan.
“While the overall plan is not yet finalized, it will certainly include new and creative ways for us to fulfill our mission, and we will focus immediately on efficiency and items that we can control, including adherence to the effective operating plans that we have developed,” he said.
Five Democratic senators and four House members have asked DeJoy to regularly brief them on steps the Postal Service is taking to ensure that voting by mail is working across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing a recent report by the Postal Service’s inspector general, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York and four others urged DeJoy to assure them that the Postal Service is ready to handle the expected crush of absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 election.
Their July 16 letter cited the postmaster general’s role as “responsible for ensuring that the vote-by-mail system and the delivery of election mail is conducted with integrity and efficiency during this pandemic.”
The letter asked for the agency’s action plan for dealing with the election mail. It also questioned whether the Postal Service has enough political and election mail coordination to handle the expected crush of election mail, as well as if the USPS will have emergency plans in place if a mail-processing plant is hit by a severe outbreak of the coronavirus.
Martha Johnson, a USPS spokeswoman, did offer a significant caveat, “Customers who opt to vote through the U.S. Mail must understand their local jurisdiction’s requirements for timely submission of absentee ballots, including postmarking requirements.”
Neither her statement nor Partenheimer’s mentioned DeJoy.
President Trump has been outspoken in his condemnation of voting by mail although he voted by mail this year in a Florida primary.
Supporters of mail balloting say that Trump’s fears of massive fraud are not supported by election studies.
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