PMG DeJoy testifies before Senate, House committees
Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
It was most likely the four most momentous days the United States Postal Service has had on Capitol Hill in decades.
It began Aug. 21 with new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy surviving his first public encounter with a congressional committee and was followed by the House of Representatives effectively denouncing his initial actions, but offering his federal agency $25 billion in emergency funds.
A major Republican party fundraiser, DeJoy ended his days before Congress Aug. 24 as Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform grilled him over his ties to President Donald Trump and raised fears DeJoy was undermining the chances that millions of Americans will be able to vote by mail Nov. 3. One lawmaker even suggested DeJoy would have to be pardoned by the president.
The former North Carolina business executive denounced the Democratic claims as “outrageous” and promised the Postal Service will easily handle the expected crush of mail-in ballots in the fall elections.
“This sacred duty is my number one priority between now and election day,” Dejoy told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Aug. 21.
That pledge won him no supporters among House Democrats who joined with 26 Republicans in a rare Saturday session on Aug. 22 to demand the USPS return to the mailing standards in effect Jan. 1.
The 257-to-150 vote on the Democrats’ Delivering for America Act was a rebuff over the removal of sorting machines and blue mail collection boxes that DeJoy said had happened without his direct knowledge.
President Trump threatened to veto the bill, which he branded another Democratic hoax.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cast doubt on whether he would allow the upper chamber to vote on the measure.
The president’s and McConnell’s comments were well known to Democrats and Republicans in the House as they debated the problems of the long financially troubled Postal Service in their Saturday session.
“America deserves a better postal service,” conceded Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., “but this bill does not do that.”
“The Postal Service is a Blockbuster video store in a Netflix world,” said Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Tex.
Democrats produced a new internal Postal Service document showing that mail delivery times had plunged sharply since DeJoy’s arrival on June 15 as the nation’s 76th postmaster general.
They also noted repeatedly that Trump-appointed members of the Postal Service’s board of governors had asked for a $25 billion appropriation.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said DeJoy had deliberately misled Congress. “The people have risen up” about their increasingly slow mail service, she said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., remarked that there is a five-year prison sentence for slowing the mail and said DeJoy’s actions cutting overtime pay had slowed mail service.
“He knew what he had done was wrong,” Hoyer said.
Democrats often told of veterans and others whose mailed prescriptions were delayed by DeJoy’s actions.
Republicans countered that the USPS did not need the $25 billion. They said the agency has a $15 billion cash reserve plus an untapped $10 billion federal loan agreement with the Department of the Treasury.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said DeJoy is not sabotaging the USPS. It is a victim of “long-term problems that preceded” the Trump administration he said.
There was a sharp contrast between the two congressional hearings that DeJoy faced.
The Aug. 21 Senate session seemed more receptive to the postmaster general’s assurances that the Postal Service would easily handle the expected flood of absentee ballots this fall.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, ended the session telling DeJoy he “should be commended — not condemned” for his actions. “No doubt the Democrats are making this up,” he said.
The Aug. 24 House hearing proved equally partisan. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, took DeJoy to task from the outset.
“Whatever the cause of these massive delays, the American people want to go back to the way things were,” she told DeJoy.
For his part, DeJoy said he had no intention to restore sorting machines that had been removed from some mail-processing centers. He noted that mail volume was recovering from what he said was an unexpected dip in letter volume that occurred shortly after he took office in June.
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