The White House is formally opposing a bill introduced by House Democrats to halt changes to U.S. Postal Service operations until after the coronavirus pandemic and provide billions in funding to the beleaguered agency, one day before lawmakers return to Washington to vote on the measure.
The Office of Management and Budget said in a statement Friday that the Trump administration “strongly opposes” the bill and that President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic National Convention What we’ll remember from the 2020 Biden convention Chris Wallace labels Biden’s acceptance speech ‘enormously effective’ MORE’s advisers would recommend he veto it should it reach his desk. The White House argues that the bill would add to the challenges currently facing the Postal Service, accusing Democrats of trying to “exploit the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext for placing counterproductive restrictions on USPS’s already limited operational flexibilities.”
The White House said that the measure would “impose burdensome new requirements on USPS that would make it even harder for USPS to deliver election mail” and subject the agency to litigation risks and costs. The White House also took issue with the $25 billion in Postal Service funding proposed in the coronavirus bill — which it called a “bailout” — because the money would be “arbitrarily” granted to the agency without being linked to the pandemic or the November election.
“This bill is an overreaction to sensationalized media reports that have made evidence-free accusations that USPS has undertaken reforms to achieve political rather than operational objectives,” the statement reads.
The service has been at the center of controversy as a result of changes pursued by Postmaster General Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyTensions flare as senators grill postmaster general The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Postmaster General attempts to calm mail-in voting fears Postmaster General testifies that ballots will be prioritized for delivery MORE purportedly meant to cut costs at the agency, which has long faced financial trouble.
News reports of mail collection boxes being removed, mail sorting machines disabled and resulting delays in mail have caused alarm among lawmakers. Under pressure, DeJoy said this week he would pause the changes until after the 2020 election but said he still intends to pursue reforms.
Testifying before a Senate panel on Friday, DeJoy pledged to prioritize mail-in ballots over other mail this November and said the agency is “fully capable” of delivering election mail on time. In July, a top Postal Service official had written to almost all states and Washington, D.C., warning that it could not guarantee it would be able to deliver all ballots by Election Day.
Democrats have blasted the operational changes, raising concerns about them being motivated by political thinking. Trump has repeatedly railed against mail-in ballots and claimed that the expansion of mail-in voting would invite widespread fraud, a claim that experts say is unsubstantiated.
The House bill, called the Delivering for America Act, is sponsored by Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyThe Hill’s Morning Report – Coronavirus, character and Michelle Obama headline Day 1 for Dems DHS rejects government watchdog finding that top officials were improperly appointed Postmaster general agrees to testify before House panel MORE (D-N.Y.). It would prohibit the Postal Service from implementing changes to operations or level of service in place at the beginning of this year until the end of the coronavirus pandemic and provide $25 billion for the Postal Service’s operations.
Specifically, the bill would stop any changes in the nature of postal services affecting service nationwide; revisions of service standards; closures of any post office or cutback in hours; prohibitions on overtime pay to employees; and changes that would delay mail.
The House is scheduled to vote on the bill Saturday. The vote is likely to be largely symbolic, given that the bill would face an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate and the White House is threatening a veto.
The White House statement Friday signals that Trump is still open to considering Postal Service funding as part of a fifth coronavirus relief package, but talks between the White House and Congress have broken down on that front.
The statement says that the administration looks forward to working with Congress on future coronavirus relief bill that provides help for Americans impacted economically by the virus, noting that any legislation “could also include financial or operational flexibilities to help USPS continue to provide critical services to the American people.”