Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified this morning before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the postal service’s operations. He was called to testify regarding the operations of the United States Postal Service (USPS) during the presidential election this November. There have been widespread complaints and concerns about delays in mail service, the removal of collection boxes, the reduction of overtime hours for postal workers, and the disconnection of high-capacity sorting machines. Ultimately, the narrative was created by the media that the Trump administration is trying to dismantle the USPS in order to suppress the vote in November.
In his opening statement, DeJoy noted that he believes the U.S. Postal Service can be improved to better serve Americans and to operate with lower costs. He assured the committee and the American people that the USPS would be entirely capable of handling all election mail and ensured that it would be collected and delivered in a timely manner.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the chairman of the committee, began his questions by giving Louis DeJoy the opportunity to dispel what Johnson referred to as “false narratives” regarding the postal service. DeJoy responded to again reassure the American people that the USPS can certainly handle the election mail with no delays. He noted that the postal service delivers nearly 450,000 pieces of mail everyday.
Sen. Johnson claimed that the response to the removal of USPS “blue boxes” has been vastly overblown. DeJoy noted that there is a bout 140,000 collection boxes in the United States. Over the past 10 years, 35,000 of them have been removed. Every year the use data for these boxes is analyzed and decisions are made to move or remove certain collection boxes. Since DeJoy’s arrival the USPS has removed around 700 boxes, and he made sure to emphasize that this process was already well underway when he arrived. Even though he admitted that before he came on he wasn’t aware that such a process existed, DeJoy noted that he was quick to pause such actions when they saw the excitement and backlash that it was creating across the nation. He further added the the removal of some of the high-capacity mail sorting machines has been to make room for sorting packages. The sorting machines in question are used to sort flat mail. DeJoy pointed to the 12-14 percent decrease in mail volume this year to support the removal of such sorting machines.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) noted that he has been seeking data from the Postmaster General and the USPS for at least a month to better understand the decisions that were made and the data supporting those decisions. Sen. Peters alleged that he never received any such data or useful response and argued that such a lack of transparency is unacceptable.
He also asked if election mail would still be considered as first-class mail and moved with the respective expediency. DeJoy noted that yes, election mail would be considered as first-class, high-priority mail, and would likely even be processed and delivered ahead of first-class mail.
When asked if any of the processing machines will be brought back, DeJoy responded that there are no intentions to do so and that bringing back the machines that were removed or disconnected “is not needed.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) centered his questions around mail-in voting. He noted that his state wants to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. Sen. Portman noted that Ohio has utilized mail-in voting to great effect and that he believes it is a great process to support. He asked DeJoy if he supported absentee and mail-in voting, to which he responded in the affirmative, reminiscing on the times that he has voted by mail in the past.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) tore into DeJoy’s attempt to normalize the delays that we are seeing around the country. He further attempted to push back against Chairman Johnson’s characterizations of a “false narrative.” Sen. Carper noted that these complaints are not localized or rare, they are spread across the nation, and the American people have every right to be concerned. He further added that although DeJoy has suspended some of the changes taking place regarding the removal of collection boxes and mail sorting machines, in the past two days new plans were revealed from the USPS that suggested that even greater changes were on the horizon for after the election.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) attempted to characterize the U.S. Postal Service as free from critique or concern for its entire existence until Louis DeJoy was newly appointed as Postmaster General, which is obviously untrue. In short, he feebly tried to build the case that all of the recent concerns regarding the USPS are overblown and purely political in nature. Despite complaints from across the country of mail delays, despite the rhetoric from President Trump regarding mail and mail-in voting, apparently all of the critique against DeJoy is unfounded.
Although the concerns are far from unfounded, it may be true that they are overblown for political means. Even though that does exist as a possibility, if we look at this situation in the broader context of the Trump administration, is is exceedingly unlikely that there is nothing nefarious going on.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) used her time for questions to push Louis DeJoy to provide the committee and the American people with the data and analysis used to make the executive changes that he has made since his appointment. She urged him to commit to transparency, to which DeJoy said that he would to the best of his ability.
Most of the questioning from committee members aligned with these established party lines, with some minor, but important, exceptions. Most Republicans tried to make the case that concerns were overblown, whereas most Democrats tended to ask critical questions about operations and the complaints their offices have received about mail delays. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has been a relatively reasonable Republican under the Trump administration and his questions reflected that reality.
Sen. Sinema of Arizona asked DeJoy to clarify if there are any plans to consolidate or reduce capacity for mail processing plants across the country before the November election. DeJoy answered clearly and concisely that there are no plans to make any changes or modifications until after the election. Clearly, the public backlash has helped to halt any major changes within the USPS from occurring until after the presidential election. DeJoy has made it clear that any major changes have been and would continue to be suspended until after the election has concluded. However, we should not take this at face value just because he is testifying under oath, that hasn’t stopped a number of Trump’s associates from lying before Congress.
Chairman Johnson tried to end the hearing by echoing his statements that the concerns about the mail delays with the USPS are a “false narrative” created to serve the political interests of Democrats. Sen. Tom Carper interrupted the chairman during his statement, and asked him to yield to him for a minute or two, which Johnson did. Sen. Carper recalled that he and his Republican colleagues have worked on bi-partisan reform before and he believes that they can do it again. He emphasized the importance of compromise, which is a concept that seems to be lost on most of our politicians.
Ultimately, the hearing went as expected, as these things typically do. Democrats asked questions regarding the USPS operations, changes, and complaints of mail delays. Republicans tried to undermine any concerns regarding DeJoy or the USPS. Some committee members strayed from their colleagues to lend bi-partisan support or ask less politically-motivated questions. Of course, Postmaster General DeJoy defended his actions, claimed to not have spoken with President Trump about USPS operations and changes to be made, and tried to assure the American people that the U.S. Postal Service is entirely capable and ready to handle the high volume of election mail this fall.
Mr. DeJoy is expected to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform next Monday.