U.S. Democrats step up pressure on postal service cuts ahead of election

By Jonathan Landay and David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democrats on Sunday stepped up their efforts to rein in a cost-cutting campaign by President Donald Trump's appointed postmaster general that has stoked fears about holding up mail-in ballots ahead of the November election

Reuters August 17, 2020 06:12:29 IST
U.S. Democrats step up pressure on postal service cuts ahead of election

US Democrats step up pressure on postal service cuts ahead of election

By Jonathan Landay and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democrats on Sunday stepped up their efforts to rein in a cost-cutting campaign by President Donald Trump's appointed postmaster general that has stoked fears about holding up mail-in ballots ahead of the November election.

Top Democrats in Congress called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and another top postal official to testify this month at a hearing on a wave of cuts that has slowed mail delivery around the country, alarming lawmakers ahead of the Nov. 3 election when up to half of U.S. voters could cast ballots by mail.

At least six Democratic state attorneys general were in discussions about what legal means they might pursue to stop changes to the Postal Service that could affect the election outcome, the Washington Post reported, citing interviews with multiple attorneys general.

Congressional Democrats called on DeJoy, a Trump donor, and Postal Service Chairman Robert Duncan to testify at an Aug. 24 hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform.

"The President has explicitly stated his intention to manipulate the Postal Service to deny eligible voters access to the ballot in pursuit of his own re-election," Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said in a joint statement. "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."

DeJoy did not respond to a request for comment.

Schumer in a statement called on the Postal Service's board of governors to remove DeJoy if he "refuses to come before Congress."

Democrats have accused Trump, who is trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in polls, of trying to hamstring the cash-strapped Postal Service to suppress mail-in voting.

Trump on Thursday said he had held up talks with Congress over a fresh round of coronavirus stimulus funding to block Democrats from providing more funds for mail-in voting and election infrastructure.

Trump later walked back those comments, saying he would not veto a bill that included funds for the Postal Service. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN on Sunday said he would agree to $10 billion to $25 billion in fresh Postal funding. The Democratic-controlled House approved $25 billion in a bill passed in May.

The Washington Post reported that the attorneys general of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington and North Carolina were in talks about legal steps to stop changes to the Postal Service that could influence the election's outcome.

"We will use all our authority to ensure every eligible vote is secure, protected, and counted in November," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. "Make no mistake, the President of the United States is trying to undermine the election."

Officials at offices of the other five attorneys general cited by the Post could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.

Mark Dimondstein, the head of the 200,000-plus-member American Postal Workers Union, on Sunday said the Postal Service's Republican-dominated governing board sought more than $25 billion.

'TIME FOR CONGRESS TO ACT'

Appearing on Fox News, he said the service required emergency funds due to the pandemic-driven economic slowdown, pointing out that it received no funds in a stimulus package passed in March.

"The Congress and this administration took care of the private sector to the tune of over $500 billion," said Dimondstein. "The postal office did not get a dime. It's time for Congress to act."

Pelosi may recall lawmakers from a summer recess to address changes at the Postal Service, a Democratic congressional aide said on Saturday.

Separately, Meadows told CNN's State of the Union that the White House fears a surge in mail-in voting could delay election results and leave the naming of the new president to the speaker of the House.

"A number of states are now trying to figure out how they are going to go to universal mail-in ballots," Meadows said. "That's a disaster where we won't know the election results on Nov. 3 and we might not know it for months and for me that's problematic because the Constitution says that then a Nancy Pelosi in the House would actually pick the president on Jan. 20."

Trump has repeatedly and without evidence said that a surge in mail-in voting would lead to fraud. Voting by mail is nothing new in the United States, as one in four voters cast ballots that way in 2016.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and David Lawder, additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Scott Malone, Lisa Shumaker, Nick Zieminski and Daniel Wallis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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