California politicians, including Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15), continue to press the Trump administration and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to restore service levels in the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in advance of the general election scheduled for Nov. 3.
“The American public and the House have put the president and his billionaire-donor postmaster general on notice that we won’t accept tampering with our Postal Service – putting veterans, seniors and other Americans in jeopardy – in order to tamper with our election,” Swalwell said in an email to The Independent.
With the nation still firmly in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, mail-in ballot volumes are expected to reach historically high levels. Several states, including California, have promised to deliver a mail-in ballot to every registered voter, while the majority of states will do so upon the request of the voter.
Dejoy, a major donor to the Trump campaign, took over as postmaster general in June. Since then, a number of operational changes he implemented have resulted in the deterioration of the agency’s performance, sparking fears that service delays could impact the November election and mobilizing an effort to restore service to levels achieved prior to the start of DeJoy’s tenure.
With little help likely from the White House or the Senate, House Democrats began applying pressure directly on DeJoy and they saw some positive results. The same day that House Democrats held a Day of Action to demonstrate public support for the USPS, DeJoy announced that all planned operational changes at the Postal Service would be delayed until after the election.
“We're going to fight for the Postal Service,” Swalwell said last month during a Day of Action held to support the USPS. “We're going to fight for people who are counting on what they deliver every day."
In August, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) recalled representatives to Washington from their summer break to vote on legislation that will provide $25 billion in funding to the Postal Service and prohibit the USPS from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on Jan. 1, 2020. The legislation passed and was supported by some two dozen Republicans, but the measure is not expected to be taken up by the Republican-led Senate.
“The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said in a USPS press release. “Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day.”
In the days following the House vote to support the USPS, DeJoy testified about USPS performance and capabilities before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight Committee.
“As I testified, the intervening service declines should not have happened, but the changes are fundamental and necessary. And the Postal Service is strongly committed to fixing the problems by identifying and rectifying their root causes,” said DeJoy in a letter to the House Oversight Committee following his testimony. “While there are a number of factors at play related to service performance, including pressures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and other unforeseen events, I am confident that the Postal Service’s performance will continue to improve overall, and that it will ultimately exceed our prior service performance levels.”
However, after DeJoy's testimony, members of the House committee asserted that he was withholding documents he was to provide to the committee, and Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) responded with a subpoena. The move appeared to have increased tension between the committee and the Postal Service.
“The Postal Service has been working with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform staff regarding the provision of additional information,” read a USPS-issued statement.”...Given the straightforward and cooperative nature of these communications with the committee staff, we were frankly surprised and confused by Chairwoman Maloney’s statement today about her intent to issue a subpoena to the Postal Service. We will continue to cooperate with the Oversight committees in both the House and Senate, and we fully intend to comply with our obligations under the law.”
The postmaster general has until Sept. 16 to provide the requested documentation.
“DeJoy must provide Congress with all subpoenaed and otherwise requested information immediately,” Swalwell said. “We made our position clear with the legislation we passed. The USPS must operate at the same level of service at which it did at the start of this year. Nothing less is tolerable.