Sen. Gary Peters tore into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in a Senate hearing on Friday morning as controversy continues to swirl over mail-in voting, the ability of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to deliver mail-in ballots on time for the Nov. 3 election and changes that DeJoy has made to the USPS in his short tenure as postmaster general.
Peters, D-Mich., is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The Friday hearing was called by Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who worried that House Democrats in a hearing scheduled for Monday would not be fair to DeJoy.
DeJoy entered his current post in June and quickly began making what were framed as money-saving changes to the constantly-in-the-red Post Office. Critics, however, have said that those changes have slowed mail service and said they could undermine USPS’ ability to deliver ballots this fall — especially after USPS sent letters to most states warning that the Post Office might not be able to deliver mail-in ballots on time under their mail-in voting rules.
“Whether folks are receiving important medications, financial documents, critical home supplies, or simply trying to stay in touch with their loved ones, the Postal Service has always delivered,” Peters said Friday. “But Mr. DeJoy you have not.”
Peters continued: “For more than two centuries, Americans have been able to count on the Postal Service. But – in less than two months as Postmaster General – you have undermined one of our nation’s most trusted institutions and wreaked havoc on families, veterans, seniors, rural communities and people across our country.”
The perception that the Trump administration is trying to undermine the ability of the Post Office to deliver mail-in ballots was not helped when the president seemed to say he was withholding money from USPS Democrats included in the coronavirus relief bill for that very purpose in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo. His administration later walked the comment back, saying it is other demands Democrats are making for that legislation that are holding up negotiations.
Amid building pressure, DeJoy announced this week that he would walk back some of his plans for changes to the Post Office’s operations, and swore that USPS would deliver for Americans on Election Day.
“I want to make a few things clear: The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall,” DeJoy said. “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.”
He added, regarding changes he said predated his time with USPS: “To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.”
Peters on Friday nevertheless slammed the changes DeJoy has led, saying that mail backlogs and delays have already hurt Americans.
“The operational changes you implemented, without consulting with your customers or the public, have caused significant delays,” Peters said. “Delays that have hurt people across the nation.”
One notable member of the committee is Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Harris is not participating in the hearing itself but has submitted questions in writing.