Pelosi: ‘Really dangerous’ to privatize the Post Office
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Friday that the Trump administration’s push to revamp the U.S. Postal Service could gut one of the nation’s oldest and most trusted institutions, just as more and more people are relying on it to get through the coronavirus crisis.
“It is just a necessary connection for the American people, especially our seniors, who get their drugs through the post office, who get their communications — for many of them — in that way,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “Right now, I see a very big danger for our country in the form of the Trump administration’s interest in privatizing the post office.”
The Trump administration, after floating the idea of privatizing the Postal Service in 2018, backed off those plans later that year. But the agency has remained a target of the president, who has accused it of cutting sweetheart shipping deals with Amazon, to the disadvantage of taxpayers.
Trump amplified those criticisms on Friday, saying he won’t endorse $10 billion in loans to the troubled Postal Service — funds approved by Congress last month — unless the agency hikes its shipping rates.
“The postal workers are fantastic, but this thing’s losing billions of dollars,” Trump said from the White House. “It has for years because they don’t want to insult — for whatever reason, you can imagine — they don’t want to insult Amazon and these other groups.”
“If they don’t raise the price I’m not signing anything,” he added.
The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, which is another frequent target of Trump’s ire. Those dynamics have prompted concerns from Postal Service supporters that Trump is attacking the agency as a personal vendetta. Pelosi, however, said the reasons likely go deeper than that.
“I think that it pre-dates that. I think it is privatization because they are anti-governance, and that’s who they are,” she said, referring to Trump and Republicans more broadly. “And that’s a legitimate debate to have in our country. And we will have it.”
The battle over Postal Service funding, a long-standing fight between the parties, is heating up amid the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus, as advertisers have scaled back their direct-mail buys, undercutting one of the agency’s major revenue streams.
Earlier this month, Megan Brennan, the U.S. postmaster general, told the House Oversight Committee that the agency is poised to lose $13 billion as a direct result of the pandemic, and another $54 billion over the next decade. She requested that Congress provide $25 billion in emergency grants to weather the immediate crisis.
Pelosi noted that Democrats had sought to secure that funding last month in the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion emergency package designed to mitigate the economic devastation caused by the pandemic. Their initial request of $25 billion was a non-starter with GOP leaders. But Pelosi said there was enough support among Republicans in the Senate to secure $6 billion in the draft bill.
Then, she said, the president stepped in to remove those funds.
“We had some support in the Senate on the Republican side. But the White House — and they told me it came right from the president — [said] no money for the post office,” Pelosi said.
Instead, the CARES Act provided the agency with access to $10 billion in emergency loans through the Treasury Department. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said Friday that he agrees with Trump’s prescription for a Postal Service overhaul, to include “certain criteria” as a precondition for receiving the funds. The administration is also looking to replace Brennan as postmaster general, he said.
Pelosi said the administration’s ultimate goal is privatization, and warned that such a switch would ultimately undermine the agency’s ability to deliver services equitably.
“This is really dangerous. Mnuchin at Treasury is trying to leverage the debt situation in a way that must be stopped, and the only way it will be stopped is if the American people understand what a loss it is for them,” she said.
“For them to be toying with this notion that … they’re going to privatize the postal system,” she added, “is something that the public should be aware of — and should reject.”