Postal Service Becomes Pawn in New Political Battle

What to do about funding the ailing Postal Service has become fodder for a political fight between Democrats and Republicans.

Legislation has been introduced in the House this week that would ensure that the Postal Service would not be allowed to make a number of reforms that have recently been floated as the political rhetoric swirls around the struggling agency.

The Delivering for America Act (H.R. 8015) was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). It would bar the Postal Service from implementing any changes to the operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020 until the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is over.

Update: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Sunday she would call the House back into session this coming week to vote on Maloney’s bill.

Specially, the bill states the following changes would be prohibited:

  • Any change in the nature of postal services which will generally affect service on a nationwide or substantially nationwide basis
  • Any revision of service standards
  • Any closure or consolidation of any post office or reduction of facility hours
  • Any prohibition on payment of overtime pay to Postal Service officers or employees.
  • Any change that would prevent the Postal Service from meeting its service standards or cause a decline in measurements of performance relative to those service standards
  • Any change that would have the effect of delaying mail, allowing for the non-delivery of mail to a delivery route, or increasing the volume of undelivered mail

Maloney introduced the legislation in response to internal memos obtained last month by the Washington Post which outlined operational changes designed to cut costs. The Postal Service has been losing money for over a decade, and the situation with the coronavirus has only exacerbated it. Former Postmaster General Megan Brennan said in April that the agency might not survive the rest of the year without a bailout with the accelerating losses the Postal Service was experiencing from the coronavirus.

A bailout is apparently exactly what Maloney wants for the Postal Service in lieu of any proposed cost cutting measures. She sent a letter to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in March in which she urged the Senate to take up legislation which contained a bailout for the Postal Service. A stimulus bill introduced in the House at that time contained a $25 billion emergency bailout for the Postal Service which Maloney championed in a press release about the measure.

Maloney said in a statement about the bill:

Our Postal Service should not become an instrument of partisan politics, but instead must be protected as a neutral, independent entity that focuses on one thing and one thing only—delivering the mail.  Millions of people rely on the Postal Service every day to communicate, to access critical medications, and to vote.  At this juncture in our nation’s history, when the number of Americans voting by mail for this Presidential election is expected to more than double from the last, Congress must protect the right of all eligible citizens to have their vote counted.  A once-in-a-century pandemic is no time to enact changes that threaten service reliability and transparency.

It seems that becoming “an instrument of partisan politics” is exactly what has happened with the Postal Service, however, with Democrats and Republicans now sparring back and forth over emergency funding and mail-in ballots.

The Hill summarized the political battle quite succinctly, writing, “[President] Trump has made unsubstantiated claims about widespread fraud and warned that Democratic efforts to expand access to mail voting will lead to chaos and delays. Democrats are accusing Trump of dismantling the Postal Service in an effort to make it more difficult to vote by mail.”

President Trump has said in the past he is opposed to a bailout for the Postal Service, and he reiterated that again today when he told Fox Business that disputes over emergency funding for the Postal Service are an impediment to Democrats and Republicans reaching a deal on another stimulus bill.

“The items are the post office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting,” Trump said in an interview on Fox Business network, noting that Democrats want $25 billion in funding for the Postal Service in the deal. “If we don’t make the deal, that means can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. It just can’t happen.”

Democrats, however, have accused the president of meddling with the election on the ballots issue. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) wrote on Twitter, “@realDonaldTrump is plainly telling us that he’s trying to rig the election by withholding much-needed funding from the @USPS Don’t let him do this.”

Carper is one of a number of Senators who sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy demanding information about the recent proposed changes to the Postal Service.

It will be interesting to see how the newly formed political battle over the Postal Service ultimately plays out.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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