After missing document deadline, postmaster general faces subpoena by House Oversight

Maloney breaks from Cummings’ practice, will not hold hearing first

The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced Monday it would subpoena Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, pictured here on Aug. 25, for documents relating to recent mail slowdowns and changes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced Monday it would subpoena Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, pictured here on Aug. 25, for documents relating to recent mail slowdowns and changes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted August 31, 2020 at 3:30pm

House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney announced Monday she will subpoena Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to get documents that were to be provided last week regarding a slowdown in mail delivery.

The announcement came a week after DeJoy testified before the committee that delivery times were improving after disruptions caused by temporary restructuring.

That hearing got heated at times as Democrats demanded answers from DeJoy, a Trump megadonor and logistics executive. Maloney gave him an ultimatum, saying that she would issue subpoenas if no documents were produced by Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Two days after that deadline, DeJoy sent a letter Friday saying his staff is "working with the oversight committee to identify and provide materials requested during the hearing." The letter did not say when the documents would be released.

"DeJoy has not produced a single additional document since the House and Senate hearings were held," the committee said in a news release Monday.

Maloney described the request, which covers such topics as delivery delays, sorting machines and overtime, in her Monday memorandum to members informing them of the subpoena. The subpoena is expected to be issued Wednesday.

The memorandum compiles requests made by several House and Senate members as scrutiny on the USPS intensified in recent weeks. Lawmakers have expressed concerns over reports that mail-in ballots will not be delivered in time to be counted by Election Day as voters choose to avoid the polls in the middle of a pandemic.

DeJoy announced in a letter Monday that after dropping earlier this month, the agency's most recent performance report showed an increasing number of first class, media and periodical mail was delivered on time.

The postal service was "frankly surprised and confused" by Maloney's subpoena announcement because it was working with the committee to provide additional information, the statement said. The agency vowed to continue cooperation with both House and Senate committees and said it intends "to comply with our obligations under the law."

Maloney also said the committee would change the practice used by former Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, and not hold a business meeting to consider the subpoena. Maloney took over for Cummings late last year after he died.

"As you know, when Republican Committee Chairmen held the gavel from 2011 to 2018, they never held a vote on any of their more than 150 subpoenas," she wrote.

Delay talk

Complaints of mail delays that caused perishable prescriptions, food and other packages to spoil before reaching their destination have gotten louder as the pandemic has caused a spike in package volumes. The apparent delays prompted both House and Senate committees to hold hearings and demand information about reports of late-arriving mail being left behind, mailboxes being removed and letter sorting machines being disconnected.

At hearings before House and Senate committees, DeJoy said the agency could continue through the election without financial assistance from Congress but said it needs a better long-term strategy. The USPS gets no tax dollars for operating expenses and funds operations through sales.

Data on mail delivery in April, May and June found that service numbers were already down from the same quarter last year. After the USPS announced DeJoy was reorganizing leadership, rumblings about mail delays got even louder.

Media coverage has focused on anecdotal stories of delays in mail delivery and equipment being removed from facilities, but data on whether delays are really up between July and September won’t be available until later.

Maloney also sent a document request to Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan, who also testified in front of House Oversight.