House passes bill to reverse Postal Service changes, infuse $25B in emergency funds

National

FILE – In this Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, file photo, a person drops applications for mail-in-ballots into a mail box in Omaha, Neb. U.S. Postal Service warnings that it can’t guarantee ballots sent by mail will arrive on time have put a spotlight on the narrow timeframes most states allow to request and return those ballots. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill Saturday giving $25 billion in emergency funds to the U.S. Postal Service and reversing recent cost-cutting operational changes. Democrats are seeking to reinforce the agency ahead of the November election when many voters are expected to cast mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote passed 257-150 in the Democratic-controlled House, earning some support from Republicans who expressed concerns about delayed mail. The bill is likely to meet significant opposition in the GOP-led Senate.

The rare Saturday session in August comes amid a national uproar over mail interference, putting the Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at the center of an unprecedented election year. The House will recess again until next month.

DeJoy, an ally of President Donald Trump, has been criticized for implementing cost-cutting measures, such as removing postal boxes and reducing post office hours, in an effort to disenfranchise those seeking to vote by mail during the pandemic. Many have also accused DeJoy of coordinating with the White House to undermine the vote by mail effort.

During a congressional testimony Friday, DeJoy said he would not restore the cuts that have already been made and was unable to provide senators with a plan for how he will handle the influx of mail-in ballots this November. He also would not say whether he did an analysis of how his policy changes would affect veterans, the elderly or families who send financial documents by mail.

Many Republicans have shrugged off Democrats’ complaints as being overblown and Republican leaders urged their members to vote against the bill, accusing Democrats of promoting a “conspiracy theory.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled distaste for the House bill in a tweet just minutes after the vote.

“House Democrats have spent weeks ignoring the urgent needs of American workers and families, but they rushed back to Washington the instant that overblown conspiracy theories about the U.S. Postal Service convinced them their own jobs might be in jeopardy,” he tweeted.

McConnell has suggested he is open to additional Postal Service funding, but not as a stand-alone bill. He has called for a smaller amount of USPS funding to be part of a larger coronavirus relief bill.

Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in a tweet that House Democrats “are doing their jobs to help fund @USPS & protect it from sabotage. Just like they did their jobs & passed another COVID-19 bill months ago.”

“Show some political courage & finally stand up to Trump, @SenateMajLdr McConnell,” she wrote. “Call back the Senate & let us vote.”

Trump has also said he wants to block agency emergency funding for the Postal Service because he opposes expanding access to vote by mail.

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