WASHINGTON – Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, joined a chorus of Republicans defending the changes to the Postal Service and accusing Democrats in a sometimes-heated hearing of conspiring to create problems with this fall’s presidential election.
“I want to clear up some obvious political disinformation that the majority is putting out,” Gosar said at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting where Republicans defended cost-cutting moves by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
But Democrats said DeJoy’s decisions to remove some mail equipment, cut back on overtime and other changes have directly affected the delivery of mail, which they fear could hamper mail-in balloting this fall.
“Our entire country is experiencing these delays as a result of Mr. DeJoy’s actions,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-New York, and chairwoman of the committee.
The hearing came two days after the House, in a largely partisan vote, approved the “Delivering for America Act” Saturday 257-150, with the no votes coming from 149 Republicans and one independent member.
Arizona lawmakers followed suit, with all five Democrats in the House voting for the bill and all four Republicans opposing it.
Maloney’s office said the bill would provide the Postal Service with $25 billion “to help weather the coronavirus crisis and returns operations to the way they were before the Postmaster General recently caused nationwide delays in the mail.”
Maloney pointed to an Aug. 12 report by the Postal Service that showed a 6% to 10% drop in service levels for all categories of mail in the two months since DeJoy took over at the agency.
But DeJoy pushed back Monday – as he did in a Senate committee hearing Friday – against what he called “inaccuracies” by his critics. He denied ordering a halt in overtime, as critics have charged, and he did not have a hand in the removal of blue street mailboxes or post office sorting machines, which are regularly reviewed by the agency.
As for the reduction in service levels, DeJoy said one problem has been a lack of available staff due to the coronavirus, particularly in urban areas.
That argument was raised by Gosar, who said the president of the Phoenix Postal Workers’ Union said the union was facing pandemic workforce strains, such as low workforce availability.
Gosar also asked if cities such as New York, Portland, and Chicago have experienced slowdowns due to the “rioting and anarchy going on,”
DeJoy did not respond directly, but noted that, “Any kind of rioting does produce delays with any type of public service.”
Republicans harped on the fact that Monday’s hearing came two days after the House voted on the bill to reverse changes at the Postal Service.
“On Saturday on the House floor, my colleagues said the post office was on the verge of collapse, but that is not true,” Gosar said.
He questioned the need for an extra $25 billion in the bill, claiming that the Postal Service has access to “$10 billion cash on hand and access to a $10 billion line of credit” and is generating more revenue than last year due to high package volume.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said on the House floor Saturday that the bill “illustrates the Democrats’ overarching theme” of sending money to solve problems.
But Democrats on Monday defended the bill, and the need to stave off cuts, saying they have a real impact on people’s lives.
Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Maryland, said he wanted to keep the hearing focused on the “face of those people” like senior citizens who worked hard and rely on the Postal Service for medications, bills and other important documents.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said the agency is a “lifeline” for many Americans.
“The Postal Service Board of Governors is required by law to represent the public interest. Not the president, not a political party, or not even the postmaster general,” Connolly said.
One area where both parties agreed was on the importance of timely and secure ballot delivery for this November’s presidential election. More than one-third of Americans plan to vote by mail in November election, according to a report in USA Today. In Arizona, election officials have said that about 80% of voters receive ballots by mail.
DeJoy said he wanted to assure the public that the postal service is “fully capable and committed” to delivering ballots on time.
He said critics are pushing a “false narrative” that the changes – many of which were long in the works – were meant to disrupt the elections. Still, DeJoy said he delayed any changes until after the election so there would be no questions.
“This sacred duty is my No. 1 priority between now and Election Day,” he said of the need to deliver mailed ballots.
But Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Massachusetts, was skeptical, saying there were only two possible reasons for the agency’s actions.
“One, either through gross incompetence, you have ended the 240-year history of delivering the mail reliably on time, or the second conclusion that we can gather is that you’re doing this on purpose and you’re deliberately dismantling this once-proud tradition,” Lynch said.