Postmaster-general Louis DeJoy will appear before a House committee next week amid an outcry over a stark US Postal Service warning that mail-in ballots might not arrive in time to be counted in the November election.
House Democrats had called for Mr DeJoy to appear at the “urgent” oversight committee hearing on August 24 after several prominent Democrats — including Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — called for his resignation. Robert Duncan, chairman of the USPS board of governors, will also appear at the hearing.
When Mr DeJoy was first appointed to his post by the USPS board earlier this year, the Republican fundraiser and donor to President Donald Trump attracted criticism from Democrats, who complained about his partisan credentials and lack of postal service experience.
Now they warn that Mr DeJoy is helping to further Mr Trump’s ambitions to crack down on mail-in voting — a practice the president has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, is rife with fraud.
Since his appointment, Mr DeJoy has pushed through budget cuts, including cuts to mail delivery, postal worker overtime and letter boxes, all of which have contributed to significant mail backlogs.
While Mr DeJoy has characterised the backlog as a temporary issue as the heavily indebted postal service seeks to weather the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats have warned that the new measures could disenfranchise some of the millions of American voters who are expected to send in their ballot by mail this year.
In letters sent to 46 states and Washington DC at the end of July, Thomas Marshall, the service’s general counsel, said that post offices might not be able to deliver votes in time to be counted, even if they were posted before the state deadline.
On Saturday, the House of Representatives is due to reconvene from its August recess to vote on stimulus legislation that would provide $25bn in emergency funding for USPS. Mr Trump has repeatedly stated that he is against providing additional funding to the postal service, while defending the budget cuts.
Mr Trump last week threatened to hold up the postal funding, saying: “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”
He later softened his stance to say that he would approve the post office funding if Democrats agreed to other Republican demands for the stimulus bill.
On Monday, he tweeted “SAVE THE POST OFFICE!” and complained that Democrats were holding the hearing with Mr DeJoy during the same week as the Republican National Convention, instead of this week, when the Democratic National Convention is taking place.
Meanwhile, on Monday, more than a half-dozen Senate Democrats, including Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, urged the USPS board of governors to reverse Mr DeJoy’s cost-cutting decisions that were delaying crucial postal deliveries, including prescription medications, and suggested Mr DeJoy should be removed from his post if he did not comply.
“It is critical that you act immediately to address efforts by President Trump and Mr DeJoy to sabotage the Postal Service,” the senators wrote. “It is time to use your full power and authority on behalf of the Postal Service, the American people, and the ‘public interest’ you are required to represent.”
A coalition of states are also threatening to take the Trump administration to court over the postal service cuts and threats to mail-in voting.
“President Trump’s actions to interfere with the operations of the US Postal Service in advance of the presidential election is deeply disturbing,” said Letitia James, attorney-general for New York. “It is an attempt at an authoritarian power grab in an effort to hold on to power, plain and simple.”