GOVERNMENT

Postmaster to testify in Senate on mail, Mnuchin denies role

Aug 21, 2020, 7:16 AM
postal service changes...
FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2020, file photo Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, left, is escorted to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office on Capitol Hill in Washington. The U.S. Postal Service has sent letters to 46 states and the District of Columbia, warning it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted, The Washington Post reported Friday, Aug. 14. DeJoy, a former supply-chain CEO and a major donor to President Donald Trump and other Republicans, has pushed cost-cutting measures to eliminate overtime pay and hold mail until the next day if postal distribution centers are running late. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing public backlash, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is set to testify Friday about disruptions in mail delivery as a Senate committee digs into changes in postal operations being made just as millions of Americans will be relying on mail-in ballots for the November election.

President Donald Trump praises the new head of the Postal Service, a Republican donor and ally. But Democrats warn DeJoy’s cost-cutting initiatives since arriving in June are causing an upheaval that threatens the election. Trump raised the stakes by saying he wants to block agency funds to make it harder for the Postal Service to handle the expected surge of mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 crisis.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will gavel open the session dismissing the “false political narrative” that DeJoy is trying to “sabotage” the election.

“It is Postmaster DeJoy’s commendable attempt to reduce those excess costs that are now being cynically used to create this false political narrative,” the Wisconsin senator will say, according to prepared remarks.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose role in postal operations is being questioned by Senate Democrats, said in a letter to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that he had no hand in “recruiting or suggesting” DeJoy for the job.

“In fact, I was surprised to learn that Mr. DeJoy was a candidate for the position,” Mnuchin wrote in a letter late Thursday to Schumer.

The morning hearing will be held remotely as Congress is on recess and lawmakers have been conducting much of their business during the coronavirus outbreak in virtual settings.

It’s unclear if Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, will be among those beaming into the session as the week-long Democratic National Convention comes to a close.

The outcry over mail delays and warnings of political interference have put the Postal Service at the center of the nation’s tumultuous election year, with Americans rallying around one of the nation’s oldest and more popular institutions.

With mounting pressure, DeJoy abruptly reversed course this week, vowing to postpone any further changes until after the election, saying he wanted to avoid even the “perception” of any interference. Blue mailboxes were being been removed, back-of-shop sorting equipment shutdown and overtime hours kept in check.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said DeJoy told her in a subsequent phone call he had no intention of restoring the equipment.

An internal directive to postal staff said, “They are not to reconnect/reinstall machines,” according to an email obtained by The Associated Press.

House Democrats are pushing ahead with a rare Saturday session to pass legislation that would prohibit the actions and send $25 billion to shore up postal operations. Some 20 states, along with voting rights advocates, have sued to reverse the changes.

During an interview Thursday on Washington Post Live, Pelosi said Republicans “have been after the post office for a while” as they try to run it more like a profitable business.

“A business? No it’s a service,” Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is eyeing a $10 billion postal rescue as part of the next COVID-19 relief package.

“The Post Office is not in trouble,” the GOP leader said Thursday during a home-state stop in Paducha, Ky. “We’re going to make sure that they are able to deliver our ballots on time.”

The White House has said it would be open to more postal funding as part of a broader virus aid package.

The Postal Service is struggling financially under a decline in mail volume, rising costs from the coronavirus pandemic and a rare, and some say cumbersome congressional requirement to fund in advance its retiree health care benefits.

For many, the Postal Service provides a lifeline, sending not just cards and letters, but prescription drug delivery, financial statements and other items that are especially needed by mail during the pandemic.

The choice of DeJoy to lead the service, the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee, is coming under increased scrutiny.

The postal service board of governors, appointed by Trump, selected DeJoy in May to take the job. A GOP donor, he previously owned a logistics business that was a longtime Postal Service contractor. He maintains significant financial stakes in companies that do business or compete with the agency, raising conflict of interest questions.

In a statement, the Postal Service said DeJoy has made all required financial disclosures but that he might have to divest some holdings if conflicts arise.

Schumer said this week he has asked for an accounting of how DeJoy was selected, but was previously told by the board of governors some information remains confidential. Schumer had said Mnuchin played a role in the process.

David C. Williams, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, on Thursday told lawmakers that he resigned from the board, in part, over DeJoy’s selection, and because he believed the White House was taking extraordinary steps to turn the independent agency into a “political tool.”

He said, “I was convinced that its independent role had been marginalized.”

Williams, who resigned in April, told members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus at an online forum that DeJoy “didn’t strike me as a serious candidate.”

___

Associated Press writer Bruce Schreiner in Frankfort, Ky., contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

Government

Herbert Cox statement Reyes election lawsuit...
Mark Jones

State of Utah files lawsuit against pharmaceutical retailers

Three pharmaceutical retailers are facing a lawsuit from the State of Utah. The lawsuit was filed the week of July 1.
4 days ago
This June 20, 2017, photo provided by Chris Wonderly shows Hovenweep Castle at Hovenweep National M...
Curt Gresseth

Supreme Court widens state power over tribes. What does it mean for Utah?

The director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs discusses the recent US Supreme Court ruling and what it means for tribes in Utah.
5 days ago
Ketanji Brown Jackson takes the oath for the Supreme Court....
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Jackson sworn in, becomes 1st Black woman on Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, will be sworn as the court's 116th justice Thursday, just as the man she is replacing, Justice Stephen Breyer, retires.
5 days ago
Immigration activists rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 26. Photo credi...
Tierney Sneed and Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

Supreme Court says Biden can end Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave President Joe Biden the green light to end the controversial "Remain in Mexico" immigration policy.
5 days ago
The Supreme Court is pictured. The court just limited the EPA...
MARK SHERMAN Associated Press

Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

The Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation's main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
5 days ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden says transatlantic alliance has adapted to new threats

Biden's comments came at a press conference in Madrid at the conclusion of the annual meeting of NATO leaders and after he attended a summit with the Group of Seven advanced democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Postmaster to testify in Senate on mail, Mnuchin denies role