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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 approves deal to expedite Georgia runoff ballots DeJoy's calendar released by Postal Service is almost entirely redacted Postal employees report backlogs across the country amid holiday shipping 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 MaloneyWhat our kids should know after the Capitol Hill riot  House Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump administration misses census data deadline, eyes March handover to Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) said Friday. 

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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 McConnellGraham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Rove: Chances of conviction rise if Giuliani represents Trump in Senate impeachment trial Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report 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 TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT 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 PelosiCowboys for Trump founder arrested following Capitol riot Retired Army general: 'We can't have demonstrators showing up at a state Capitol with damn long guns' Graham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday in a virtual interview with The Washington Post. 

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“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 calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP GOP in bind over Trump as corporate donations freeze 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 ScaliseHouse GOP lawmaker: Trump 'put all of our lives at risk' Scalise labels Capitol rioting 'domestic terrorism' Tensions flare between House Republicans, Capitol Police over metal detectors MORE (La.), the GOP whip, said Friday that Pelosi has created “a fabricated crisis.” Rep. James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerHouse GOP raise concerns over Biden's top Cabinet nominees Sackler family points fingers at Purdue Pharma during House hearing on opioids Republicans press FBI for briefing on efforts by Chinese government operatives to gain influence with lawmakers 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 MnuchinTreasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference Sanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated MORE in May calling for $25 billion for the Postal Service.

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisGOP divided over Liz Cheney's future Trust between lawmakers reaches all-time low after Capitol riots Cori Bush slams lawmakers who refused to go through metal detector outside House chamber 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 BidenFear of insider attack prompts additional FBI screening of National Guard troops: AP Iran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries MORE as the party’s presidential nominee, while Republicans will conduct theirs starting Monday to re-nominate Trump.

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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.”