Amid outcry, postmaster general to testify before House

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a public backlash over mail disruptions, the Trump administration scrambled to respond as the House prepared an emergency vote to halt delivery delays and service changes that Democrats warned could imperil the November election.

The Postal Service said it has stopped removing mailboxes and mail-sorting machines amid an outcry from lawmakers. United States (US) President Donald Trump flatly denied he was asking for the mail to be delayed even as he levelled fresh criticism on universal ballots and mail-in voting.

“Wouldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters on Monday at the White House. “I have encouraged everybody: Speed up the mail, not slow the mail.”

Embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will testify next Monday before Congress, along with the chairman of the Postal Service board of governors.

Democrats and some Republicans say actions by the new postmaster general, a Trump ally and a major Republican donor, have endangered millions of Americans who rely on the post office to obtain prescription drugs and other needs, including an expected surge in mail-in voting this fall.

A family uses a mailbox in Morristown, New Jersey. PHOTO: AFP

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back into session over the crisis at the Postal Service, setting up a political showdown amid growing concerns that the Trump White House is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the election.

Pelosi cut short lawmakers’ summer recess with a vote expected on Saturday on legislation that would prohibit changes at the agency. The package will also include USD25 billion to shore up the Postal Service, which faces continued financial losses.

The Postal Service is among the nation’s oldest and more popular institutions, strained in recent years by declines in first-class and business mail, but now hit with new challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump routinely criticises its business model, but the financial outlook is far more complex, and includes an unusual requirement to pre-fund retiree health benefits that advocates in Congress want to undo.

Ahead of the election, DeJoy, a former supply-chain CEO who took over the Postal Service in June, has sparked nationwide outcry over delays, new prices and cutbacks just as millions of Americans will be trying to vote by mail and polling places during the COVID-19 crisis.