The House of Representatives is holding a rare emergency session Saturday, with Democrats seeking to pass emergency funding for the Postal Service as the country ramps up preparations for larger numbers of mail-in votes during the November election amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats are seeking $25 billion in additional funding for the Postal Service as well as to roll back recent changes at the agency that include removing high-speed mail sorting machines and the blue curbside collection boxes in public places, as well as cutting overtime pay for employees.
“These changes are causing huge delays, reported all across the country, threatening the effectiveness of the Postal Service and undermining our democracy,” Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney, the bill’s author said.
The changes were put in place by Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general who assumed the position in June. DeJoy – who is a Republican fundraiser and donor to the Trump campaign – said he instituted the measures to reduce costs at the post office, which has faced revenue losses in recent years.
DeJoy told senators Friday that election mail would be prioritized for delivery, saying it’s his “sacred duty” to ensure such mail is delivered. However, he said that blue collection boxes and sorting equipment that have been removed are “not needed.”Download File Embed Download Audio
Earlier this week, DeJoy suspended “long-standing operational initiatives” at the post office until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” He said no more mail processing equipment or collection boxes would be removed until then and that “overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.”
The White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday criticized the proposed Democratic bill, saying it is an “overreaction to sensationalized media reports that have made evidence-free accusations that USPS has undertaken reforms to achieve political rather than operational objectives.” It said it would recommend President Donald Trump veto the bill if it were to pass.
The bill, which is being proposed in the Democratic-controlled House, is unlikely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Trump has repeatedly said, without evidence, that the November election could be rigged because of mail-in votes, claiming that Russia and China could forge U.S. paper ballots.
“This is going to be the greatest election disaster in history,” Trump told reporters at the White House last month.
Trump has also said he does not want to wait “weeks, months or even years” for the results of the election because of problems he predicts will occur with mailed-in ballots.
Representatives for the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) told VOA in July that if there is any evidence to support Trump’s claims of potential mail-in ballot fraud, the administration has yet to share it with them.
Last week, Trump said he opposes emergency funding for the Postal Service to make voting by mail easier. However, he told reporters the following day that he would agree to additional funding for the Postal Service if Democrats made concessions as part of a larger coronavirus aid bill. Talks on a new stimulus bill have largely broken down between Republicans and Democrats over sharp policy differences.
Most states already offer some form of mail-in voting in the form of “absentee” ballots, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, some states have moved to expand the use of mail-in ballots for the November election.
According to a New York Times analysis, about three-quarters of Americans will be eligible to vote by mail in the presidential election, leading to an estimated 80 million mail-in votes.