Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, launched an investigation Thursday into reported delays at the U.S. Postal Service following changes implemented by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, as postal workers and lawmakers sound alarms about what the ongoing delays could mean for the November election.
Peters, whose committee oversees the postal service, said in a statement announcing the investigation that his constituents “have encountered problems with the timely and dependable service they count on to conduct business, get prescription medications and critical supplies, and even exercise their right to vote.”
DeJoy, a GOP fundraiser and major Trump donor, was appointed in May and subsequently imposed a number of cost-cutting changes at the agency, which he said has a “broken business model” and was in a “financially unsustainable condition.”
The changes, which include cuts to transportation and workers’ overtime, has resulted in postal workers reporting days-long delays to mail delivery in certain areas of the country, and American Post Workers Union president Mark Dimondstein told CNN Friday that service had “degraded” over the past two weeks.
The delays have sparked fears about mail-in voting in November, with Dimondstein saying that the “policies to slow down the mail” will have “an impact on everything, including ballots.”
The goal of Peters’ investigation is to ensure any USPS changes “are transparent and do not negatively impact deliveries,” and the senator is starting by soliciting information from the public, postal workers and others about their experiences with USPS delays to “shed light” on the impacts of DeJoy’s changes and inform future questions for USPS leadership.
USPS spokesman David Partenheimer denied allegations that the agency is slowing down mail—including election mail—to the Associated Press, saying, “We continue to employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all election mail consistent with our standards.” The postal service has not yet responded to a request for comment on the investigation.
DeJoy’s changes follow years of criticism from Trump about the postal service, which has sharply intensified ahead of the November election. Trump, who has repeatedly attacked and attempted to sow distrust in mail-in voting, claimed Monday that the postal service’s infrastructure was ill-equipped to handle an influx of mail-in ballots, saying at a press briefing that the agency has long been “run in a fashion that hasn’t been great” and isn’t “prepared for a thing like this.” “How can the Post Office be expected to handle?” Trump asked. The U.S. Postal Service has strongly pushed back against the president’s allegations, releasing a statement in response to his comments saying the agency “has ample capacity to adjust our nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected Election and Political Mail volume, including any additional volume that may result as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Dimondstein also released a statement Monday condemning Trump’s suggestion that the election should be delayed and continued attacks on mail-in voting. “This assault on the U.S. Constitution, our democratic rights and the ongoing attempt to discredit ‘vote-by-mail’ and demonize postal workers is wrong and heads us down a dangerous path toward dictatorship,” Dimondstein said.
What to Watch for
Funding for the postal service—a historically cash-strapped agency that has recently faced particular financial challenges—has reportedly become a sticking point in negotiations over Congress’s next stimulus package, with DeJoy’s allegedly detrimental cost-cutting changes galvanizing Democrats’ request for additional funding. House lawmakers approved $25 million in USPS funding in their stimulus legislation, while Senate Republicans do not want any additional USPS funding, after the agency was previously given a $10 billion loan by the U.S. Treasury through the CARES Act.