US.House panel calls for hearing with postmaster general

The US House Oversight Committee has called for the chief of the country’s postal service to testify about the cost-cutting overhaul to the agency, which according to lawmakers would sabotage the November 3 presidential election with an expected surge in mail-in ballots due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Over the past several weeks, there have been startling new revelations about the scope and gravity of operational changes you are implementing at hundreds of postal facilities without consulting adequately with Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Board of Governors,” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, wrote in a letter on Sunday to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in May and assumed office in June.

“Your testimony is particularly urgent given the troubling influx of reports of widespread delays at postal facilities across the country – as well as President Trump’s explicit admission last week that he has been blocking critical coronavirus funding for the Postal Service in order to impair mail-in voting efforts for the upcoming elections in November,” said Maloney, who originally scheduled the hearing for September but decided that it should be held on August 24.

The committee also sought testimony from Robert Duncan, the Board of Governors chairman of the US Postal Service (USPS), reports Xinhua news agency.

DeJoy recently launched sweeping operational changes to the USPS, including a ban on extra trips by postal workers for on-time delivery, crackdowns on overtime pay and shakeup in agency leadership, which he said were aimed at addressing the agency’s dire financial situation.

Critics said those measures led to delays in mail delivery and, as mail-in voting expanded across the nation due to the pandemic, may cause possible disenfranchisement in the upcoming election.

Last month, the USPS sent letters to as many as 46 states and the District of Columbia, notifying them of possible delays in the delivery of mail-in ballots, potentially resulting in those votes failing to be counted on Election Day.

“The Postmaster General and top Postal Service leadership must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election,” said a statement issued Sunday by top Democrats on Capitol Hill, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Tensions between Democrats and the Trump administration surrounding the USPS escalated after the President on August 12 threatened to block the $25 billion funding for the USPS supported by Democrats in a coronavirus relief bill passed in the House in May.

Trump said the money would assist mail-in ballots, which he has repeatedly railed against and claimed the method would cause voting fraud.

In a CNN interview on Sunday White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows slammed the credibility of “universal” mail-in voting, arguing states that send ballots to all registered voters irrespective of whether they have applied for them are “just asking for a disaster”.

Meadows also said the White House would be willing to approve a standalone bill – separate from a coronavirus relief package — that provides funding for the USPS, echoing a similar stance expressed by Trump.