WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s postmaster general has no intention of restoring mail equipment or funding overtime hours he cut, despite public outcry that operational changes are undermining service before the November election.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said she told Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in phone call that his decision to temporarily pause any further postal operations changes is “wholly insufficient and does not reverse damage already wreaked.”
She said DeJoy “frankly admitted that he had no intention of replacing the sorting machines, blue mailboxes and other key mail infrastructure that have been removed and that plans for adequate overtime, which is critical for the timely delivery of mail, are not in the works.”
Her statement comes as the Postal Service faced more questions and concerns and a federal lawsuit Wednesday over mail delivery disruptions after DeJoy’s abrupt decision to postpone any further changes until after the Nov. 3 election.
The delays have stunned Americans and led to warnings that Trump is trying to undermine the Postal Service before a surge of mail-in ballots as voters avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.
Civil and voting rights organizations said Wednesday they are suing to immediately return postal operations to normal.
“We never imagined that we would be in this position with one of the oldest and most trusted institutions in our country,” said Virginia Case of the League of Women Voters.
Case said there was no choice but to sue, even with the reversal by DeJoy on Tuesday. “The damage has been done,” she said. “We need guarantees in place that this will not happen again, prior to the election.”
At the White House, Trump’s team has insisted the president has no intention of disrupting mail delivery now or before Election Day.
But Trump leveled more attacks on absentee voting. “IF YOU CAN PROTEST IN PERSON, YOU CAN VOTE IN PERSON!” the president tweeted.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who spoke to DeJoy late Tuesday, asked for a written explanation of exactly what changes he was reversing.
Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the service’s board of governors to provide “answers on why Mr. DeJoy was selected” for the job.
DeJoy, who is set to testify Friday before senators, ignited an uproar over operational cutbacks and service changes he swiftly put in place since taking the helm in June. With mounting public pressure and a crush of state lawsuits, he hit pause Tuesday, saying he would hold off on any further changes until after the election.
Nonetheless, there are concerns that mail delivery of from routine goods and the millions of mail-in ballots expected are still potentially at risk because of the changes pushed by DeJoy. Managers and workers have been let go, and mailboxes and machines have already been removed.
One initiative that DeJoy didn’t single out in his announcement was the newly imposed constraints on when mail can go out for delivery — a change postal workers have said is fueling delays.
DeJoy, a former supply chain CEO, is a Republican donor and Trump ally, and the first postmaster general who did not come from the ranks of the Postal Service. He has pledged to revamp the Postal Service, which has struggled financially ever since 2006, when it was saddled with a costly new requirement to pre-fund its employee retiree healthcare benefits.
On Tuesday, he said he was halting those initiatives until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”
“We will deliver the nation’s election mail on time,” DeJoy said in a statement.
DeJoy said he is halting the planned removal of mail-processing machines and blue collection boxes, as well as an initiative to change retail hours at post offices. He also said no mail processing facilities will be closed and said the agency has not eliminated overtime.
The statement did not specify whether the agency would restore mail-sorting machines that have recently been taken offline. A Postal Service spokesman declined to comment beyond DeJoy’s statement.
Pelosi is gaining support from Republicans on Saturday’s House vote on legislation that would prevent election-year mail changes and provide emergency postal funds.
“I don’t, frankly, trust the postmaster general,” Pelosi said in San Francisco.
More than 20 states, from New York to California, announced they would be suing to stop the changes. Several vowed they would press on, keeping a watchful eye on the Postal Service ahead of the election.
Trump made clear last week that he was blocking $25 billion in emergency aid to the Postal Service, acknowledging he wanted to curtail election mail operations, as well as a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6 billion in additional election money to the states to help process an expected surge of mail-in ballots.
Those funds are tangled in a broader coronavirus aid package that was approved in the House but stalled in the Senate.
While the House is expected to approve the $25 billion as part of Saturday’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he’s not interested in a separate postal bill. He is eyeing a new virus aid package that would provide $10 billion for the Postal Service.
Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, welcomed DeJoy’s decision but said the Postal Service needs COVID-related financial relief. “It’s time for Congress to deliver,” he said.
Pelosi is calling lawmakers back to Washington for the “Delivering for America Act,” which would prohibit the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or the level of service it had in place on Jan. 1. The package would include the $25 billion the House has already approved as part of the COVID-19 rescue that is stalled in the Senate.
Postal workers say they are increasingly worried about their ability to deliver for the fall election.
Izaguirre reported from Charleston, West Virginia. Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Kevin Freking, Darlene Superville, Jill Colvin and Alan Fram in Washington, Bruce Schreiner in Frankfort, Kentucky, Gene Johnson in Seattle and Ron Harris in Atlanta contributed to this report.