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Jeffries ‘cautiously optimistic’ USPS problems will be resolved

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York is the chairman of the Democratic Caucus and one of the youngest members of the party’s congressional leadership team. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how the Democratic National Convention has gone so far, why he believes the Biden-Harris ticket is the right choice for this moment, the politics of the postal service and prospects for more coronavirus relief.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, for now, when Joe Biden selected California Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate, many viewed his historic pick as a nod to the future of the Democratic Party, one that is younger and, as we have been discussing, more diverse.

    Representative Hakeem Jeffries is the chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives, one of the youngest members of the party's leadership team. And he joins me now.

    Congressman Jeffries, it's so good to have you back with us. Thank you very much.

    What is your sense? I think you're joining us from California. Tell us what you're hearing from people you talk to about this convention so far.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    Well, Judy, it's great to be with you.

    I'm actually in Brooklyn, New York, my hometown.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    OK. Thank you for the change. I'm sorry. I, for some reason, was flipping the country. New York, yes.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries:

    That's OK.

    But I'm looking forward to tonight, as we talk about where we are and where we need to go to form a more important union. We certainly have come a long way in America. We still have a ways to go as it relates to ensuring prosperity and equality in every single zip code.

    But that is the objective of the Democratic Party. That is in the DNA of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And I'm certainly looking forward to her remarks, which will begin to set forth a vision for the future as it relates to a better America.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you think that hasn't been done yet?

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries:

    Well, I think it has been done in a variety of different ways.

    But, as your panelists have indicated, the first two nights of the convention have really been dedicated to getting to know Joe Biden through his humanity, his decency, and his authenticity.

    And I think you couldn't have two better validators in that regard than former first lady Michelle Obama and the next first lady, Dr. Jill Biden.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to turn you — I do want to talk about the convention, Congressman Jeffries, but I also want to turn you to an issue that is getting a great deal of attention right now both around the convention and outside, and that's the Postal Service.

    It has to do with mail-in voting. It has to do with the integrity of this election. As we know, President Trump has been critical of mail-in voting, talked a lot about fraud.

    In the last day or so, the postmaster general has said he's not going to allow some of the cutbacks that there was — there were beginning to be in the Postal Service.

    You have been very involved in this issue in the Congress. You have called for an investigation. Where does it stand right now?

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries:

    Well, the postmaster general took a modest, but insufficient step in the right direction by backing away from the future changes that he was planning to make to undermine the ability of the Postal Service to be there for the American people.

    The post office is as American as baseball, motherhood and apple pie. It's one of the few institutions that's actually in the United States Constitution. The first postmaster general, of course, was Dr. Ben Franklin, one of the framers of the United States Constitution. That's how central it is, and it continues to be so, to the American people.

    And the fact that Donald Trump would endeavor to undermine it solely because he apparently does not want Americans to have the opportunity to vote safely and by mail, because he concludes that, if they do so in large numbers, he will lose, that is shameful.

    Now, the postmaster has agreed to come before the House of Representatives on Monday to answer questions as it relates to what has happened, and how do we reverse the damages that have already been done to the Postal Service.

    And, on Saturday, we will be back in Washington to pass legislation that does reverse the damage that has been done, that is designed to ensure that post office boxes are brought back, that the sorting equipment is brought back, that the administrative changes designed to undermine the delivery of the mail are reversed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, at this point, how confident are you that this is going to get resolved in a way that you and others feel that the balloting process, that the Postal Service itself is functioning in a way that the American people can trust?

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries:

    I'm cautiously optimistic, because the American people, Judy, have risen up in such a phenomenal way, Democrats, Republicans, independents, people in urban America, suburban America, and rural America, everyday Americans, veterans, senior citizens, all of whom rely on the Postal Service for things like their Social Security checks, or their medicine, in the case of veterans and others, or their unemployment insurance checks, in the face of a deadly pandemic, where more than 55 million Americans have lost employment during the course of the year, in large measure because the presidential response out of this White House has been an unmitigated disaster.

    That is what has forced, in my view, the postmaster general to reverse course. We're going to trust, but verify, and ensure that we can arrive at common ground with my Republican colleagues.

    And I do expect Republican votes for our legislation this weekend.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, very quickly, I can't let you get away without asking you about the status of COVID — relief for the coronavirus, what it's done to the economy.

    Right now, Congress at a complete stalemate on this issue. People are out there wondering if anything is going to happen. What do you see right now?

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries:

    Well, the urgency of the situation does require action.

    More than 170,000 Americans have died. More than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed. More than five million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus, and counting. And, of course, as I indicated, more than 55 million Americans have lost their jobs during the course of this pandemic.

    It's an extraordinary moment. And it requires an extraordinary congressional intervention. That's what House Democrats have been fighting for. We passed the HEROES Act on May 15. The Republicans have done nothing for three months. That's outrageous. And we are going to continue to try to meet the moment, but we need the Republicans to rise to the occasion.

    And I'm urging the American people, keep the pressure on until they come to the negotiating table to arrive at something that is comprehensive, transformational, and significant.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Hakeem Jeffries joining us, one of the leadership of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, joining us tonight from his district in Brooklyn, New York.

    Congressman, very good to have you with us. Thank you very much.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries:

    Thank you, Judy. Great to be with you, as always.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Take care.

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