WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called House lawmakers to return to Washington Sunday to block Postal Service changes Democrats fear could make it harder for millions of Americans to cast mail ballots in November.
Members will be expected to return to Washington this week.
The move comes as Democrats warn that changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former Republican National Convention finance chairman, could wreak havoc during the election in which a record number of people are likely to vote by mail because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
The House previously was scheduled to return in September.
Democrats also warn that slowed postal delivery is delaying prescription medicines mailed to veterans and Social Security checks for the elderly.
“Alarmingly, across the nation, we see the devastating effects of the president’s campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter to colleagues.
She warned that the “lives, livelihoods and the life of our American democracy are under threat.”
Pelosi wants the chamber to vote on a bill sponsored by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., that would require the Postal Service to keep up pre-DeJoy delivery standards until the end of the year.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a statement calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring the Senate back to act on legislation once the House passes it.
“I call on Leader McConnell to bring the Senate back into session to quickly act on the House’s legislation that will undo the extensive damage Mr. DeJoy has done at the Postal Service so that people can get their paychecks, medicines, and other necessities delivered on time, and to ensure our elections will remain completely free and fair,” Schumer said.
Republicans argued that the legislation was not necessary. “House Democrats never miss a manufactured crisis to put partisan politics over people in need,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement.
Pressure on Democrats to block Postal Service changes intensified after President Donald Trump said Thursday that he opposed boosting postal funding because he wanted to restrict expanded mail voting. White House officials tried to walk back those assertions over the weekend.
“The president of the United States is not going to interfere with anybody casting their votes in a legitimate way, whether it’s the post office or anything else,” Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Trump has criticized mail voting since the early days of the pandemic; more recently he’s praised the process in some states where he’s in a tight race with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Those states include Florida, where Trump voted by mail this year, Arizona and North Carolina.
Policy changes implemented by DeJoy, who was appointed in May, include banning postal workers from making extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery and restricting overtime hours. That’s caused mail backlogs of up to a week across the country.
The Postal Service has also removed high-speed mail-sorting machines and public collection boxes in numerous states, but officials said this weekend that they would halt both practices until after the election.