WASHINGTON — House lawmakers are cutting short their August recess.
They're being summoned back to D.C. this week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to try to stop cost-cutting changes to the U.S. Postal Service.
Democrats worry that the measures are deliberately being put into place to harm mail-in voting, and, to help President Donald J.Trump.
Since taking over in June, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who since 2016 has contributed $1.2 million to the president's campaign, has implemented a series of changes that Pelosi and other Democrats say have produced backlogs and service interruptions ahead of the November election when a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail.
National media have reported on the removal of mailboxes and the elimination of mail-sorting machines.
Last Friday, the Postal Service issued a warning to 46 states, including Virginia, of "significant risk" that some voters might be disenfranchised because it might not be able to meet state deadlines for delivering last-minute ballots.
Pelosi wants House members to vote on a piece of legislation called the "Delivering for America" Act. It would prohibit the United States Postal Service from canceling services or operations it had in place at the beginning of this year.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va., 3rd District) is a co-sponsor of the bill.
"People depend on the mail," Scott said. "They're receiving checks. They're receiving pharmaceuticals. They need the postal services to be reliable. And, incredibly, this President has acknowledged he will sabotage the reliability of it if it helps him get re-elected."
Scott added: "The fact that you need such a bill is outrageous."
Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with a number of other senators, wrote a joint letter calling on DeJoy to testify before Congress to provide clear, transparent answers on these service delays. The legislators cited numerous issues the delays have caused including seniors and veterans to miss their prescription medications, small businesses to lose money and customers over delayed packages, and other serious disruptions.
President Trump insists he is not trying to sabotage the Post Office. He said on "Fox and Friends" Monday, "It's been horribly run. And, we're going to make it good."
The president also said on Monday he is open to more funding for the Post Office.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va, 1st District) is concerned about any slowdown in mail service, but, he said this bill is not bipartisan.
"It should be one that includes ideas from the minority. And I haven't seen the opportunity for that to happen. I think the bill needs to be much better, and it would be if they would accept some of the ideas from the minority," Wittman explained. "The issue on the Post Office, I do believe can be bipartisan, but I think the bill that they're bringing up is very narrow in its scope, doesn't give the Post Office the flexibility to address the variety of situations that vary across the nation."
Wittman sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting that he ensure timely and reliable mail service during a period of increased scrutiny of the USPS.
That letter reads:
Dear Secretary Mnuchin:
I am writing you regarding your authority under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136, Section 6001) to ensure that the appropriate support is made available to provide reliable and timely mail service by the United States Postal Service (USPS) during these extremely challenging times.
Recently, I have heard from a significant number of constitutes across the First Congressional District reporting delayed mail services-- impacting critical shipments of medications, harming businesses and casting doubt on the USPS preparedness to handle the expected increased number of absentee votes by mail during the upcoming general election.
As you know, Section 6001of the CARES Act included $10 billion in additional borrowing authority to help the USPS with the financial shortfalls that have occurred due to COVID-19. I am encouraged to hear that recently the Department of Treasury and USPS have reached an agreement on loan terms should the need arise, allowing USPS to access additional funding for ongoing operations. I would encourage you to continue to work with Postmaster General DeJoy to ensure reliable and sustainable mail service, vital to so many Virginians.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to continuing to work together to address these and other critical issues facing the nation.
A vote is tentatively set on the House bill for next Saturday. There's no word yet on whether the Senate will reconvene to take up the issue.