Lawrence pummels postmaster over sharp declines in on-time mail delivery

By: - August 24, 2020 4:02 pm

U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies during a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on August 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. | Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy came under heavy fire Monday for withholding key information about delays in the delivery of mail since he took over the Postal Service just two months ago.

In a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), pressed DeJoy over an internal report made public over the weekend showing steep declines in on-time mail deliveries since July — challenging GOP claims that Democrats manufactured the crisis.

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence at a House committee hearing | Robin Bravender

DeJoy did not share findings from the Aug. 12 report last week when senators asked for information about the delays in a Senate oversight hearing on the matter. 

Nor did DeJoy share its findings in response to an Aug. 14 letter Democratic leaders sent him requesting information about the delays by Aug. 21, according to U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who chairs the oversight panel.

The internal post office report “unfortunately” came from a separate source, she said. It was posted on the House Oversight website on Saturday.

There is “absolutely no excuse” for withholding the information, Maloney declared. She threatened to subpoena DeJoy if he does not deliver additional information lawmakers have requested by Wednesday.

The hearing came amid Democratic allegations that the President Trump administration is trying to suppress votes during a pandemic in which the postal service will serve as “election central” because Americans will be reluctant to vote in person for fear of spreading infection.

In addition to undermining the integrity of the elections, the delays are depriving Americans of timely delivery of medicine, paychecks and other essentials, Democrats complained.

President Donald Trump told Fox News earlier this month that he opposes some funding for the Postal Service because he doesn’t want it used for mail-in votes, repeating his claim that it would lead to “fraudulent” results.

U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on government operations, said Monday that Democrats aimed to save the postal service and preserve “our democratic institutions.”

DeJoy has ushered in sweeping changes to the agency since taking the job 70 days ago, but has called allegations that they were intended to sway the election results “outrageous.”

In testimony Monday, he said there were numerous reasons for delays and characterized them as a temporary service decline rather than a permanent change.

He said he remains “laser-focused” on addressing the delays but said he has no plans to replace mail processing machines that have already been removed — repeating what he said Friday in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Democrats questioned DeJoy’s honesty and motives, as well as the process by which he was appointed to the position.

Robert Duncan, chair of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, defended the selection process, saying in opening remarks that DeJoy, a logistics executive from North Carolina and top Trump donor, was the “best leader” for the job. The board, whose governors have many ties to the Trump administration and GOP, CNBC has reported, had asked for a $25 billion injection of cash earlier this year.

Lawrence, who spent decades as an employee of the postal service, scolded DeJoy for ushering in sweeping changes amid a pandemic and months before the presidential elections and warned him about putting the interests of his political party over those of the U.S. public.

“I want you to know that you have an oath of office, and I expect for you and the American people expect for you to uphold it,” she said.

She questioned a new policy that allows mail to go undelivered for longer periods of time and urged him to study its impact on mail delivery.

“For crying out loud, why would you implement that at this time,” she asked. “You’re adding fuel to the fire.”

DeJoy said the intent was to enable letter carriers to leave for their routes earlier so they could return earlier in the day but added that he has suspended the program. He added that he is committed to “six-day delivery,” but also has ideas to gain streamline operations and save costs.

“We must be self-sustaining, and we’re not,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Lawrence said she reached out to DeJoy earlier this year to share her postal experience and welcome him to his new position but was turned away.

Republicans on the committee reiterated charges that Democrats are creating a crisis to deny the president a second term and called their charges against DeJoy character assassination and harassment.

“This is a political stunt,” said U.S. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the committee, at the outset of the hearing.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the panel’s government operations subcommittee, called Democratic attempts to politicize the Postal Service “absolutely disgusting.”

He also claimed Democrats were trying to “fraudulently” influence the upcoming elections in their push for universal mail-in ballots, which he said would result in the delivery of ballots to people who have died or moved and interfere with voter identification requirements. Michigan is one of several states in which citizens have the constitutional right to vote by mail.

DeJoy has said changes to overtime, retail hours and the location of mail processing machines and blue mailboxes were made to save costs and streamline operations.

Last week, DeJoy said he would suspend some of his moves until after the elections to avoid the appearance of impropriety. He also said he wouldn’t close existing mail processing facilities and would use “standby” resources in October to meet mail surges.

Last week, several states filed lawsuits against DeJoy, Duncan and the post office over changes made to the agency, including Michigan.

Monday’s hearing came after a rare weekend House vote on legislation that would infuse $25 billion into the U.S. Postal Service as it prepares for a surge in mail-in ballots and bar it from changing operations or service levels in place at the beginning of the year.

Democrats who control the House say the bill is needed to stop the agency from allegedly disrupting mail service to sway the November elections. More than two dozen Republicans voted in support of the measure.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is not expected to take up the Postal Service relief, and the White House threatened Friday to veto it last week.

The House approved $25 billion for the postal service in a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package approved in May. Negotiations with Republicans over a compromise pandemic measure have stalled on Capitol Hill.

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Allison Stevens
Allison Stevens

Allison Stevens has reported for States Newsroom's Washington, D.C. bureau. She is a writer, editor, and communications strategist in Northern Virginia and can be reached at