Dems Seeking to Spotlight Postal Service Breakdown in Advance of Election

Photo by Angela Breck

Amid growing public alarm over the actions of the United States Postal Service’s new leader, Maryland Democrats moved over the weekend to spotlight how those actions have slowed mail delivery — including the processing of ballots this November.

U.S. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and several other members of the state’s congressional delegation have organized a Monday news conference to give members of the agency’s unions the opportunity to describe publicly how Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s policy changes have impacted mail delivery.

DeJoy, a wealthy businessman with no previous Postal Service experience and a campaign donor to President Trump, has defended his policy shifts, saying they are needed to rein in expenses.

Lawmakers say they have received numerous complaints about slow mail delivery, and voting rights advocates have raised concerns about the upcoming election. Those concerns intensified when the president appeared to acknowledge that new USPS policies could hamper state efforts to encourage voting by mail.

Monday’s news conference will take place outside a key mail processing center that serves the Baltimore region.

Sherry McKnight, the President of American Postal Workers Union Local 181, Courtney Jenkins, the local’s legislative director, and Jermaine A. Jones, the head of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO, are all expected to participate.

“The Trump administration’s changes at the U.S. Postal Service are wreaking havoc on the lives of the American people, and it’s unacceptable,” Van Hollen said in a statement provided to Maryland Matters. “I’ve heard from hundreds of my constituents who are experiencing delays in their mail — including essential deliveries like their medications and retirement checks.”

Social media has been ablaze since late last week with images of mail boxes being scooped up and loaded into trucks and reports of high-speed processing equipment being taken offline.

Protesters gathered outside DeJoy’s condo in Washington, D.C., on Saturday and outside his mansion in Greensboro, N.C. on Sunday.

Both chambers of Congress are in recess, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Sunday night that she was calling the House of Representatives back to D.C. — most likely next Saturday — to deal with the postal service’s funding and operations. She characterized the postal service’s current cutbacks as “sabotage.”

On Friday the postal service warned 46 states that they might not be able to deliver ballots in time to be counted this November.

“In his pathological attempt to gain an electoral advantage by sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service, President Trump is putting at risk the health and well-being of veterans, seniors, and rural Americans who rely on the Postal Service to access needed prescription drugs and essential services,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) in a statement.

“This is especially critical right now for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions that place them at higher risk from COVID-19 and who are staying home at all times for their own safety. Someone ought to remind President Trump that the Postal Service does more than deliver ballots; it provides essential connections and lifelines for the American people.”

The House Oversight Committee announced on Sunday it will convene an “emergency” hearing on Aug. 24. DeJoy and Robert M. Duncan, the chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, have been invited to testify.

In a statement to Maryland Matters, Hoyer called the hearing “critically important.”

“The Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine the USPS are abhorrent, and will hurt millions of Americans,” he said.

Also scheduled to appear at Monday’s news conference: Reps. John Sarbanes (D) and Kweisi Mfume (D), Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) and state Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City).

An email to Rep. Andrew P. Harris’s spokesman was not returned. Harris, a Trump loyalist, is the lone Republican in the Maryland congressional delegation.

“We need answers, now,” Van Hollen said.

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