Congressman Stephen Lynch pressed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Monday in a testy exchange over the removal of hundreds of mail-sorting machines, as the U.S. Postal Service experiences delivery delays amid systemic changes in recent weeks.
The heated back and forth came as DeJoy testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, now reviewing the operational shifts that have led to a backlog of mail and have raised concerns about the postal service’s ability to handle the anticipated surge of mail-in ballots this fall.
While DeJoy said last week he would halt rolling out any other of the USPS’s cost-saving plans, he has also said he does not plan to reinstate mailboxes and other equipment that have been removed, lawmakers say.
Oversight Committee Chairwoman Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, on Saturday said internal documents show the nationwide mail delays are “far worse” than the USPS has acknowledged.
In lengthy remarks, Lynch, a South Boston Democrat and son of a postal clerk with an array of USPS-employed relatives, highlighted how timely and reliable mail delivery continued even throughout the country’s most troubling times: during wars and economic hardship, and even in the wake of terrorist attacks.
“Mr. DeJoy, as the postmaster of the United States of America for the last 70 days, did you know that the Postal Service has never allowed itself to be in the situation that it’s in today?” Lynch asked.
The congressman lambasted DeJoy over the letter he “embarrassingly” sent to 46 states last month informing officials the USPS could not guarantee mail-in ballots would be delivered on time for the November presidential election, as reported by The Washington Post.
The USPS has also removed 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines across the country and halted overtime for its employees, Lynch continued.
“We have reports from across the country, as you acknowledge, (that) service has been delayed and the mail is piling up,” Lynch told DeJoy. “You have ended a once-proud tradition.”
Meanwhile, postal workers have risked their health and safety to continue delivering the mail during the coronavirus pandemic so Americans can receive items such as medicines and mail-in ballots, Lynch said.
“In my heart I’m tempted to ask, after 240 years of patriotic service of delivering the mail, how can one person screw this up in just a few weeks?,” he said. “Now, I understand you bring private sector expertise. I guess we couldn’t find a government worker who could screw it up this fast.”
Lawmakers working to apply the facts based on what DeJoy has done can only reach two conclusions: one that “either through gross incompetence, you have ended the 240-year history of delivering the mail reliably on time, or the second conclusion that we could gather is that you’re doing this on purpose,” Lynch told him.
Informed his time had expired, Lynch added, “My last question is this: What the heck are you doing?”
In heated exchange with Rep. Stephen Lynch, DeJoy says he won't return sorting machines that had been removed from use
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 24, 2020
DeJoy began to respond before Lynch interjected twice, asking him if he will put the mail-sorting machines back in service.
“No, I will not,” Dejoy said.
“You will not?” Lynch asked again.
“Will not,” DeJoy responded.
“Well, there you go.”
“There I go, what?”
As the two sparred, Maloney called for order.
“Every accusation you made other than the trucks adhere to the truck schedule is inaccurate and more misinformation for the American public,” DeJoy fired back at Lynch.
“You won’t put the machines back though,” the congressman said, just before the hearing moved onto another speaker. “You took them out.”
DeJoy largely defended his actions at the USPS Monday, denying the changes are an attempt to meddle with the vote-by-mail process and adding that he expects the Postal Service to be able to handle all of the ballots sent this year, NPR News reports.
Part of the reforms is a new schedule for truck deliveries DeJoy said is aimed at making the system more efficient. (Reports and critics have noted trucks have left postal facilities empty lately.)
He acknowledged the issues the USPS has experienced in recent weeks, but he also expects the agency will resolve them.
“Transitions don’t always go smoothly; you need a recovery process … our recovery process should have been resolved in a few days,” DeJoy said, according to NPR. “There are a lot of things that are impacting our service … we should have cleared it up quicker. We have to focus on it now, and we’ll recover quite rapidly.”
On Saturday, the House passed a bill to infuse $25 million to the USPS and ban any systemic changes — a 257-to-150 vote, primarily along party lines.
Watch the full hearing:
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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