Even as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday he had asked people associated with President Donald Trump’s campaign to tone down attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, the president was on a stage in Charlotte, N.C., attacking the agency.
“I have put word around to different people, to please, that this is not helpful,” DeJoy said in response to a question from Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va. DeJoy said he did not speak to campaign leadership, but spoke with “friends of mine that are associated with the campaign.”
At times, DeJoy’s exchanges with Democrats got heated as they pressed him for answers on the removal of sorting machines, his stock holdings and his ties to Trump.
Most lawmakers and Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan appeared remotely at a hearing that stretched nearly six hours and was besieged by tech glitches.
As DeJoy testified in person, Trump appeared at the Republican National Committee in Charlotte, continuing to cast doubt on the nation’s mail carrier. He suggested, without evidence, that Democrats would somehow skew election results with ballots cast in the mail. The president himself has voted by mail this year.
“In a very, very nice way, I will tell you they are trying to steal the election,” Trump said.
Oversight and Government Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., pressed DeJoy on documents generated by USPS showing a significant drop in on-time nationwide mail delivery in recent months. That has raised concerns among Democrats about whether mail-in ballots will be properly delivered before the election, despite reassurances from DeJoy.
The documents show that Postal Service performance for first-class mail delivery from possession to delivery measured against the service expectation declined from about 92 percent on time at the beginning of July to about 84 percent on time at the beginning of August.
DeJoy said the delays were mostly temporary because of restructuring, and his team was “starting to see a nice recovery.”
Delays in service
In his opening remarks, the committee’s ranking Republican, James Comer of Kentucky, said the hearing was a political stunt and Democrats were whipping up a “hysterical frenzy.” He also accused the committee of doing things “backwards,” noting the House voted on a bill before getting more information from DeJoy.
The House held a rare Saturday session to pass legislation to reverse operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service made since the start of the year and to provide the agency $25 billion to help sustain service levels through the COVID-19 pandemic. Its Senate prospects are uncertain.
Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who hails from a heavily rural district, thanked DeJoy for acknowledging the drop in on-time mail and asked about the billions of dollars cash the agency has on hand and whether it will have enough to continue operating through November’s election.
DeJoy acknowledged the agency could continue through the election without assistance but said it needs a better long-term strategy.
Complaints of mail delays that led to a spoiling of perishable prescriptions, food and other packages before reaching their destination have gotten louder in recent weeks.
Republican Virginia Foxx, who represents northwestern North Carolina, said she and her husband have “experienced some very, very inefficient services on the part of the post office in the last few weeks,” but declined to go into details.
Across the country, the Postal Service has decommissioned sorting machines and removed some mail boxes as part of broader cutbacks. DeJoy was repeatedly asked whether he would put them back, and he said he would not.
During questioning from California Democrat Katie Porter, DeJoy answered her question on the cost of a first class stamp but didn’t know what a postcard costs to send, admitting he knows “very little” about postage stamps.
Porter pressed the former logistics executive about his financial interests, and whether he would commit to resigning if the Postal Service inspector general found he committed misconduct related to his financial interests.
“I don’t believe they will find misconduct, but I don’t see why I would commit here right now to resigning for any reason,” he said.
Duncan was asked by several lawmakers about how DeJoy, a Trump megadonor, was selected for the job of postmaster general.
DeJoy has given more than $214,000 to 15 Republicans currently serving in Congress, according to a CQ Roll Call review of Federal Election Commission records.
Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi asked Duncan about the board’s hiring search and why DeJoy, who was not among the candidates identified for the job by a recruitment agency aiding its search, was selected.
Duncan said that in addition to the recruiting agency, the board solicited candidates for the job from members of Congress, the White House and other board members, and he personally probably added a “half a dozen different names.”
After the holidays and as the coronavirus pandemic began, Duncan said he was made aware of DeJoy’s availability for consideration, and that’s when he was added to the candidate pool.