DeJoy defends Postal Service changes at combative House hearing
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Monday defended the cost-cutting measures enacted at the Postal Service during a combative House hearing in which Democrats questioned his motivations for making changes mere months before the November elections.
The nearly six hour hearing also provided a high-profile venue for Republicans and Democrats to go head-to-head over the Postal Service as both parties accused each other of trying to undermine trust in the elections conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Less than an hour into the hearing, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) threatened to subpoena DeJoy if he did not voluntarily provide the panel with additional documents detailing the impact of new reforms on the Postal Service by Wednesday.
“Mr. DeJoy, you’re withholding information from us, concealing documents, and downplaying the damage you are causing,” Maloney said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) backed Maloney’s subpoena threat if he refused to provide the committee with details of meetings logged in his computer since assuming the position of postmaster general, with the first-term lawmaker noting concerns around potential conflicts of interest.
Committee Democrats released internal Postal Service documents Saturday showing declines in mail processing and delivery starting in early July. Maloney noted that her office received the files from an unspecified whistleblower, even though Democrats had originally asked DeJoy to turn over the documents Friday.
“There is absolutely no excuse for concealing it and withholding this information from the committee, or from your testimony from the Senate when you were expressly asked about information from the document. And unfortunately, this committee received it from someone else,” Maloney said.
DeJoy, who testified before a Senate panel on Friday, insisted that Postal Service staff had acted correctly in compliance with Democrats’ document request.
“I’m not familiar with the request in total, I’m sure the staff answered the questions as they were asked,” DeJoy said, maintaining that “there are other reasons for delays in the nation.”
The recent operational changes at the Postal Service, which DeJoy took over in June, came as President Trump has repeatedly attacked voting by mail. Trump himself, however, voted absentee in the Florida primary election this year.
During an address before the Republican National Convention on Monday, Trump accused his opponents of “using COVID to steal an election.”
DeJoy, a GOP mega-donor, testified Monday that he has spoken to “people that are friends of mine who are associated with the campaign” — but not Trump campaign leadership — about the attacks on voting by mail.
“I have put word around to different people that this is not helpful,” DeJoy said.
DeJoy reiterated that the Postal Service is “fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s ballots securely and on time” and that it would be his “number one priority” through Election Day.
He acknowledged that “we are very concerned with the deterioration in service,” which has resulted in delays in delivery of prescription medications, perishable goods and other kinds of mail.
“While we have had temporary service decline, which should not have happened, we are fixing this,” DeJoy said.
DeJoy announced last week that he would suspend further changes at the Postal Service, such as removal of mail processing machines. He confirmed under questioning from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) that expanded overtime would be allowed in the two weeks leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3.
But DeJoy testified that he had no plans to restore machines that had been removed, arguing they weren’t necessary for processing election mail. He maintained that the operational changes were already in the works before he became postmaster general.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) asked DeJoy “what is the harm” in putting the machines back until Election Day “just for the peace of mind for the confidence of the American people.”
DeJoy expressed skepticism that Congress would pass legislation or provide the Postal Service with additional funding, even if it were only $1 billion. But he told Khanna with a laugh, “get me the billion and I’ll put the machines in.”
“We’ll find a way to get you the money,” Khanna said.
The hearing came two days after the House passed legislation in a rare Saturday session to provide the agency with $25 billion and prevent it from making operational changes that could result in reduced service. The funding amount was originally recommended by the Postal Service’s board of governors and included in House Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief package passed in May.
Republicans pushed back against Democratic concerns around the Postal Service, with multiple GOP committee members apologizing to DeJoy for having to defend his actions, and comparing Postal Service concerns to past investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and to the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
“The same things have been done by other postmaster generals, and yet they are coming after you because that’s how much they want to get this president,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said. “It’s disgusting, we all know what’s going on. You know it too and you won’t say it. I think that shows your character, but I’ll say it because it’s the truth, and the American people understand it and see right through it.”
The committee’s top Republican, Rep. James Comer (Ky.), described the hearing as a “political stunt,” comparing the Postal Service documents received over the weekend from a whistleblower to past information received during the Trump impeachment inquiry in conjunction with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
“Madam Chair, I don’t need to remind you that your and Adam Schiff’s record with whistleblowers is less than stellar,” Comer told Maloney.
But Democrats held firm in their criticisms of DeJoy and the Postal Service. In one of the final rounds of questioning, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) sought to highlight DeJoy’s lack of prior experience in the Postal Service by quizzing him on the price of various types of postage and how many people voted by mail in 2016.
DeJoy knew the price of a first-class postage stamp, but did not know the price of sending a postcard or how many people cast ballots by mail in the last presidential election.
“I am glad you know the price of a stamp, but I am concerned about your understanding of this agency,” Porter said.