SPONSORED:

House poised to approve $25B for Postal Service in rare Saturday vote

The House will convene for a rare weekend session on Saturday to consider Democratic legislation that would prevent the U.S. Postal Service from making functional changes that could imperil delivery of mail-in ballots for the November elections. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyJudge orders Postal Service to restore high-speed mail sorting machines Watchdog rips operational changes at USPS Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation MORE announced earlier this week that he would suspend cost-cutting measures until after the elections. But Democrats warn that it’s not enough and doesn’t reverse the moves already enacted that have resulted in mail delivery delays. 

“These attempts to hurt the Postal Service and undermine our democracy must end,” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyTrump, House lawyers return to court in fight over subpoena for financial records Safeguarding US elections by sanctioning Russian sovereign debt Fears grow of voter suppression in Texas MORE (D-N.Y.) said Friday. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The legislation authored by Maloney is expected to pass largely along party lines, although it may draw support from a handful of GOP lawmakers who have also expressed concerns about delayed mail delivery. It is likely dead on arrival in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE (R-Ky.) has rejected the idea of bringing a stand-alone postal bill to the floor, without other coronavirus relief measures the Trump administration is demanding.

The bill would prevent the Postal Service from making any changes to its operations that would result in reduced service, such as closing postal facilities, restricting overtime pay, removing mail-sorting machines or treating election mail as anything other than first-class.

It would also provide $25 billion for Postal Service operations, a figure originally recommended by the agency’s board of governors and included in the Democrats’ $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief package, which passed through the House in May. 

The vote arrives amid a fierce debate over the future of the Postal Service, fueled by DeJoy’s ascension to the top of the agency this summer, and the subsequent cut-backs he adopted, including the elimination of overtime for postal carriers; the removal of curb-side drop-boxes and sorting machines; and scaled back hours at some regional post offices. 

Democrats have howled, accusing DeJoy — a wealthy GOP donor with no previous government experience — of seeking to hamper postal delivery to lend advantage to President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE in November’s elections, when roughly 80 million voters are expected to cast mail-in ballots as a health precaution during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you don't want people to vote — if you're afraid of the public — what you want to do is suppress the vote-by mail and don't have the resources to have healthy [in-person] voting,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday in a virtual interview with The Washington Post. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“They say, 'Well, we need to cut this and we need to cut that.' No, we don't. We need to service the American people,” she added. 

The Postal Service changes came as Trump has repeatedly sought to question the reliability of voting by mail, despite voting absentee in multiple Florida primaries this year himself. 

DeJoy testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday that the Postal Service is “fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time.” 

DeJoy also acknowledged that “we all feel bad about what the dip in our service, the level, has been” in response to questioning from Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (R-Ohio) about the delayed delivery of medicines to veterans who get their prescriptions filled through the Veterans Affairs health system. 

Republicans are largely downplaying the cost-cutting measures pursued by DeJoy, casting them as routine. GOP leaders are actively urging their members to vote against the bill and accusing Democrats of promoting a “conspiracy theory.”

Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins MORE (La.), the GOP whip, said Friday that Pelosi has created “a fabricated crisis.” Rep. James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerHillicon Valley: Department of Justice sues Google | House Republicans push for tech bias hearing | Biden drawing more Twitter engagement for first time House Republicans push VA for details on recent data breach House panel advances bill to ban Postal Service leaders from holding political positions MORE (Ky.), the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, blasted Democrats for scheduling Saturday’s vote before DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the panel on Monday.

“Unfortunately, I do not have a time machine to take me to Monday when the drafters of this bill will learn from the Postal Service itself whether their politically motivated crisis narrative is based in reality,” Comer said in testimony before the House Rules Committee on Friday to prepare the legislation for the floor.

A total of 26 House Republicans signed onto a letter to GOP leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHillicon Valley: Treasury sanctions Russian group accused of targeting critical facilities | Appeals court rules Uber, Lyft must comply with labor laws | Biden: Countries that target US elections will 'pay a price' Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight Treasury sanctions Russian group accused of targeting US critical facilities with destructive malware MORE in May calling for $25 billion for the Postal Service.

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisHillicon Valley: Treasury sanctions Russian group accused of targeting critical facilities | Appeals court rules Uber, Lyft must comply with labor laws | Biden: Countries that target US elections will 'pay a price' McCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test MORE (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over elections, said that he supports providing an additional $25 billion for the Postal Service as he did in the May letter. But he warned that the real problem is that some states have election policies that aren’t realistic for delivery standards.

“The Postal Service warned states of these issues earlier this year, but unrealistic ballot request and return policies continue to be one of the biggest impediments to ensuring every vote is counted. Until states address these issues and others, I’m afraid the problems we saw in the primary are only going to persist and likely increase in November,” Davis said in a statement.

In an olive branch to Republicans, Maloney moved to amend the legislation so that it no longer has a provision that would have allowed people to sue the Postal Service if they were harmed by changes to the agency's operations.

Democratic leaders called lawmakers back to Washington from their August recess on a Saturday to accommodate the party conventions. Democrats held their convention this past week to formally name Joe BidenJoe BidenFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE as the party’s presidential nominee, while Republicans will conduct theirs starting Monday to re-nominate Trump.

ADVERTISEMENT

To further underscore the significance of the vote, Democratic leaders allocated a full two hours of House floor debate on the legislation, with passage anticipated in the early evening. 

Notably not on Saturday’s agenda is legislation to extend federal unemployment insurance payments that expired at the end of July. Bipartisan negotiations over a coronavirus relief package have been stalled for weeks with no sign of resuming anytime soon.

More than 100 House Democrats signed onto a letter to leadership urging them to also schedule a Saturday vote on legislation that would extend the $600 weekly unemployment insurance payments on a time frame based on econometrics.

But Pelosi nixed the idea, arguing that passing a standalone bill in addition to the sweeping aid package that House Democrats passed in May could undermine negotiations on other components of coronavirus relief, like state and local government funding.

The bill that House Democrats passed this spring would have extended the unemployment insurance supplement through January 2021.

“[T]he ideas Members have put forth have been excellent,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats on Thursday night. “However, we must consider their timing and strategic value.”