Clyburn bashes Postal cuts: It’s a service, not a business
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Wednesday hammered the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Postal Service, saying the agency is crucial to the task of unifying a massive and diverse country and therefore shouldn’t be treated like a typical business.
“There’s nothing more central to keeping this country united than the Postal Service,” Clyburn, the Democratic whip, said in an interview with The Hill’s Steve Clemons at an event sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.
“It’s not a business, it’s a service,” he added. “And this whole notion that you’ve got to get rid of the post office because they’ve been losing money — the post office ain’t losing money. … You’re paying for a service to keep this country together.”
The comments arrive as the battle over the future of the Postal Service has reached a fever pitch in Washington, after the newly installed postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, proposed a series of cost-cutting measures designed to pull the agency out of the red.
Among the operational changes, the agency had removed curbside collection boxes, eliminated overtime for postal carriers, cut back the hours of some post offices and taken sorting machines offline in certain facilities.
Democrats, joined by a handful of Republicans, moved quickly to denounce the changes, warning that they would hamper mail delivery heading into an election where tens of millions of voters are expected to cast mail-in ballots as a health precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Faced with the bipartisan outcry, DeJoy announced Tuesday that he would delay those changes until after the elections. He emphasized, however, that he intends to push through with the reforms next year in the name of reducing agency spending.
“I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability,” DeJoy said in a statement. “I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election.”
President Trump has framed the postal changes as a necessary step for salvaging an agency he says has “been run horribly.” And some of the president’s congressional allies lamented the delay in implementing them, quickly accusing Democrats of pushing “conspiracy theories” about DeJoy’s intentions and the threat to the integrity of the elections.
“Postmaster General DeJoy has nothing to be ashamed of,” said Rep. James Comer (Ky.), the senior Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
“The Postal Service has been in dire straits long before Mr. DeJoy’s leadership and he rightfully took action to improve its efficiency and operations to better serve the American people.”
The debate highlights the ideological differences between the two parties when it comes to the role of the federal government in the everyday lives of Americans. Republicans have long pushed a small-government approach, promoting the power of free markets and private enterprise to lift all ships. Democrats, noting the decades-long rise in income inequality, have pressed for a bolder federal hand, particularly in efforts to help lower-income people who’ve fallen through the cracks.
“This notion that everything that the government does is supposed to make a profit — that’s why we have so many students in debt today,” Clyburn said.
Democrats have also been wary that DeJoy, a wealthy GOP donor with major investments in the delivery services industry, was pushing the Postal Service changes in order to boost the reelection prospects of Trump. Although the president himself uses mail-in voting, he’s also warned, without evidence, that it encourages voter fraud.
With that in mind, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been pressing, unsuccessfully, for the Postal Service’s governing board to disclose documentation that might determine “whether Mr. DeJoy was selected for improper reasons of politics or patronage” — a request Schumer sent again Wednesday.
House Democrats are going a step further. Behind Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a group of 90 lawmakers wrote to the postal board Wednesday demanding DeJoy’s immediate removal. They accused the postmaster general of seeking “to sabotage” the agency, while warning that the changes he’s made in recent weeks have “already done considerable damage to the institution.”
Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in Congress, agrees, calling for any recent cutbacks to be reversed — and warning that poor and minority communities will be hit disproportionately if they’re not.
“Why are we removing these mailboxes from African American communities? … We’ve got to call them out for it,” Clyburn said. “I’ve been saying forever that the post office is the thread that keeps the fabric of this country together, and we should not allow it to be destroyed.”
Amid the uproar, DeJoy is slated to appear twice before Congress in the coming days. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has invited him to testify on Friday, and the House Oversight Committee is expecting him the following Monday.
The House is also scheduled to cut short its summer recess and return to Washington on Saturday, when it will vote on legislation to provide $25 billion for the Postal Service.
That provision was included in the Democrats’ $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, which passed through the House in May. But the negotiations on another round of coronavirus relief hit a wall earlier this month, largely over stark disagreements surrounding unemployment benefits and funding for state and local governments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has warned that the upper chamber won’t consider legislation addressing only the Postal Service funding.
Clyburn, however, said the Democrats’ proposal would include “other things as well,” challenging McConnell to bring it to the floor.
“If he does, I think it will pass,” Clyburn said.