Last Friday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee regarding the United States Postal Service (USPS) operations and the upcoming election. This morning DeJoy, along with the USPS Board of Governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
You can view the hearing in its entirety here. Read below for some of the highlights from the hearing.
Ranking member James Comer’s opening statement claimed that Democrats created a conspiratorial narrative to exaggerate the “dip in service” within the postal service. Rep. Comer made such ridiculous claims despite the numerous reports from postal workers and journalists across the nation detailing freezes and cuts in overtime, mail delays that are adversely affecting citizens, the disconnection or removal of high-capacity sorting machines, and explicit orders from USPS management to avoid speaking with the press and to be suspicious of customers asking numerous questions.
So many people in our country rely on the timely delivery of mail, from coupons or food stamps to help a family in poverty, to medication for veterans, to social security checks for our elders, to rent checks and other bills that need to arrive on time to avoid that late fee that could break the bank of a struggling household or shut the doors of a small business forever.
Rep. Jody Hice claimed, “If the Democrats have their way in this election, it will be filled with fraud, it will be filled with confusion, and it will be filled with lawsuits.” Unfortunately for Mr. Hice, rampant voter fraud is a myth and there is no evidence to support such claims. The claim of an election filled with confusion is ironic considering the false statements that we have seen from Republicans stoking fears about the specter of mail-in voting while President Trump’s tweets cast doubt on the efficacy and independence of the United States Postal Service.
Rep. Hice tried to flip-the-script and accuse the Democrats of trying to “rig” the November election. Yet again, it was another example of a Republican trying to feebly accuse the Democrats of doing exactly what they themselves are guilty of doing. It is the classic case of doing something nefarious and constantly decrying your opponent of being guilty of your own actions. Unfortunately, this has been the entire Republican political strategy in the era of Trump.
Postmaster DeJoy’s began his opening statement by again asserting that the United States Postal Service is both capable and committed to delivering election mail in a secure and timely manner. He noted that it is his primary priority until election day. Mr. DeJoy actively denied his involvement in some of the processes that have drawn mass media attention and public outcry over the past few weeks. DeJoy noted that the removal of collection boxes, the disconnection of some high-capacity sorting machines, and the cut back on overtime hours are all plans that had been in place when he took over and that he did not personally direct their implementation. Indeed, DeJoy asserted that the only related action he took regarding these events was to suspend their practice to remove the “misconceptions” that have infiltrated the public about the postal service. Regarding overtime, later in the hearing DeJoy confirmed that expanded overtime is one of the resources that he plans to utilize in the two weeks leading up to the election to ensure the adequate handling of election mail.
Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney prefaced her questions by emphasizing the concerns that she and her colleagues have been receiving from their constituents regarding mail delays. She noted that the 26 Republicans who voted to pass the House bill on Saturday had also received calls and emails from their respective constituents regarding a disruption in service.
An internal report from the USPS was obtained by the committee from a news source over the weekend that detailed mail delay data across various categories. Although that report was confirmed as official by the USPS, it was not referenced or produced by DeJoy during his hearing last Friday, even though he had received the report only two days prior. By that evening, the USPS was supposedly to have delivered all internal communications, assessments, evaluations, and reports related to delays in service to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in preparation of the hearing this morning. Curiously enough, that particular report was not included. When asked about the exclusion of that report from last Friday’s hearing or the documents sent to the House in preparation for today’s hearing, DeJoy did not have a good answer outside of shifting the blame to lower staff members who actually fulfilled the document request.
Rep. Gary Palmer used his time to attempt to raise concerns regarding mass mail-in voting, echoing the incessant and false claims from other Republicans and the Trump administration that mail-in voting is rampant with voter fraud. President Trump even called mail-in voting a “new phenomena.” Such statements continue to show the ignorance and arrogance that has infiltrated the Republican party. In the face of facts, they claim “fake news” or “conspiracy theories”, repeat their talking points, and double-down on their narrative. They claim time and time again that their party is the one of “facts over feelings” as the conservative pundit Ben Shapiro might say, yet when push comes to shove they always seem to be the ones denying, twisting, or hiding the facts while so often defaulting to hollow rhetoric.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi revealed in his questions that Louis DeJoy did not make the initial cut during the vetting process undertaken by the USPS Board of Governors to narrow the applicant pool for Postmaster General. Nor did he make it to the round of 14 interviews that were
Rep. Hice accused the American Postal Workers Union as being “politically biased” for endorsing Joe Biden, and asked DeJoy if it raised any questions about conflicts of interest. As a major donor to the Republican party, DeJoy quickly brushed off such concerns to avoid implying that political donations would interfere with his, or any postal workers’, ability to do their job effectively.
Rep. Comer began by saying that he wanted to ask his questions for the sake of every American watching the hearing today. He then asked Mr. DeJoy if he was appointed by the USPS Board of Governors, rather than President Trump, to which he said yes. Rep. Comer then asked if the Board of Governors was a bi-partisan group, which DeJoy answered in the affirmative. This series of questions ended with the summation that the Postmaster General was then, obviously, appointed by a bi-partisan Board of Governors, not President Trump. Rep. Comer spent the rest of his time trying to emphasize this point and to distance DeJoy from anything that the president may have said or wanted regarding the U.S. Postal Service.
However, Rep. Comer asked every question under the sun about the Board of Governors except the ones that matter most: Who appointed each of the members of the USPS Board of Governors? President Donald Trump. Who confirmed their appointments? The Republican controlled Senate. Conveniently, these questions were not asked by Mr. Comer, because they do not fit the narrative that he feebly tried to create that the President was somehow not at all involved in this process.
Rep. Kweisi Mfume used his time to refocus the hearing away from the partisan rhetoric of the committee and back to the American lives that are being negatively affected by the disruption and slowing of mail delivery. He asked Mr. DeJoy what he would say to these people, to which he responded, “We are concerned about every delivery that is late and we are working very hard to get it back on track.”
Rep. Mfume asked Mr. DeJoy to provide the density studies for the last three months that are used to determine the removal of mail collection boxes.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pressed Mr. DeJoy about a USPS internal email obtained by CNN that was sent out to managers in the western region. The email was from Kevin Couch, director of maintenance operations, who wrote, “Please message out to your respective Maintenance Managers tonight. They are not to reconnect/reinstall machines that have been previously disconnected without approval from HQ Maintenance, no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager.”
Rep. Wasserman Schultz went on to accost DeJoy, “You have said in this hearing it’s both not your job to make decisions about sorting machines and at the same time you’ve said that you’re not going to bring them back online because they’re not needed, it can’t be both.”
She further asked if Mr. DeJoy believed that local mail handlers should have the freedom to decide if they need to reconnect their disabled sorting machines or not, to which he responded that there is a management team in place to make such decisions.
Rep. John Sarbanes began his questions with perhaps the most candid and scathing opening of the day, “I don’t trust you right now. I don’t know whether it’s I don’t trust your judgement or I don’t trust your motives. If you think you could implement the changes you did without having the negative impact that we’ve seen then I worry about your judgement, and if you did understand what that impact would be then I’m concerned about your motives.”
Rep. Sarbanes further asked Mr. DeJoy to provide, in writing, the detailed logistical changes that he is making to make good on his word that the USPS can and will handle the election mail this fall. Postmaster DeJoy at the very least committed to provide the committee with an update on service by next Monday.
Rep. Robin Kelly asked if there was any analysis done about how operational changes may impact small businesses, to which DeJoy responded that no such specific analysis took place. Rep. Kelly went on to outline multiple stories from her constituents who have struggled due to delays in mail.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence pulled on her long career as a postal workers in multiple positions within the agency to preface her questions. She asked Mr. DeJoy if he knew how his expedited mail program impacted mail carriers and the overall mail service in those affected areas. She tried to make the point, as other colleagues have, that the context surrounding his appointment, the ongoing pandemic, and our chaotic political landscape, should have been more seriously considered before making any changes that would have a negative impact on mail service.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett tore into her Republican colleagues for leveling claims of “abuse of power” at the House when Senate Republicans have for so long sat on their hands. She noted that when they did get their act together long enough to do something, their actions corroborated the findings of the House, referencing the recent report from the Sentence Intelligence Committee that confirmed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, among other things.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned the Postmaster General about his potential conflicts of interest. She also asked questions about his scheduled meetings and communications with former XPO Logistics and New Breed Logistics employees, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and other key officials. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez asked Mr. DeJoy if he would be willing to submit his digital schedule to the committee. He was at first reluctant to offer such a submission, but when Rep. Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that such a schedule kept on a USPS network computer would be considered an agency document, DeJoy affirmed that he would confer with counsel regarding the matter. She also pushed Mr. DeJoy to encourage his agency to respond to her numerous requests to improve accessibility at a post office in Jackson Heights.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley pressed Mr. Robert Duncan, the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, about the procedure of nominating, vetting, and confirming Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General. She asked Mr. Duncan if the board was aware that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s initiated sexual harassment and retaliation claims against New Breed Logistics in 2015, to which he responded that the board was unaware. She further referenced other lawsuits against New Breed Logistics and the overall nature of the work culture created in the company.