The House of Representatives will return to the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, weeks earlier than planned, to vote on legislation that would prevent Postmaster General Louis DeJoy from making further changes to the U.S. Postal Service that have negatively impacted service.
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The bill the House is expected to vote on is H.R. 8015, named the Delivering for America Act. The bill was introduced on Aug. 11 by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, NY-12.
The proposed act would prevent the USPS from making changes to operations or levels of service that would substantially alter them from their status on Jan. 1 of this year. The act would stay in effect until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to Jan. 1, 2021, whichever comes later.
“At this juncture in our nation’s history, when the number of Americans voting by mail for this Presidential election is expected to more than double from the last, Congress must protect the right of all eligible citizens to have their vote counted,” Rep. Maloney said in a statement announcing the bill. “A once-in-a-century pandemic is no time to enact changes that threaten service reliability and transparency.”
The legislation was drafted in response to a series of changes that have impacted mail delivery speeds and service across the nation. Among the changes were cuts to overtime for postal workers, a ban on extra trips to deliver mail that had been left out of the first run, and the removal of postal drop boxes and mail sorting machines from USPS locations across the country.
Former north country Congressman John M. McHugh was chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and worked to pass the last piece of legislation that drastically altered the operations of the USPS in 2006. He is currently chairman of the Package Coalition, an industry group that works to ensure that the USPS continues to offer competitive package delivery services to businesses. He said that most of the changes Postmaster General DeJoy made had strongly negative impacts.
“A good number, if not all the changes he made, while perhaps of fine intention, had significant and pretty serious negative impacts on delivery standards and time of service, in other words timely delivery of mail,” he said. “That is not a good thing, and we saw across the country a lot of concern and pushback on that.”
On Tuesday, Postmaster General DeJoy announced that he would be suspending what he called “longstanding operational initiatives,” at the USPS, which were resulting in reductions to service and delivery speeds.
Mr. McHugh said that the postmaster general’s decision to pause those changes was positive, but the legislation that the House will consider on Saturday would cement the pause and prevent the postmaster general from reimposing them before January.
“The bill in question would, if passed and signed into law, would preclude his ability to bring them back at any time before January, whether it’s before or after the election,” he said.
But the service degradation that the USPS has experienced over recent weeks is only a symptom of a larger issue, Mr. McHugh said. The USPS has been losing money for nearly a decade, and there are no signs that the service can dig itself out of the hole alone. The postal service reported in July that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were facing a loss of more than $22 billion over the next 18 months.
“There still remains unresolved, at least in our view as the Package Coalition, of this impending cash shortfall, cash depletion of the postal service and its ability to continue operations,” he said.
Legislation has been proposed that would infuse much needed money back into the USPS. In May, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which among many other things included $25 billion in aid to the USPS. In the Senate, Sens. Susan Collins and Dianne Feinstein have introduced a bipartisan bill that would also provide up to $25 billion to cover revenue loss and operations expenses as a result of the pandemic. However, the Senate has made no moves to even introduce the HEROES Act to the floor for a vote, nor has it moved on the bill from Sens. Collins and Feinstein.
The postmaster general, alongside the chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors Robert M. Duncan, appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday, and will appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday.
Mr. McHugh said that those two hearings will be very important as Congress attempts to sort out the causes of, and a solution to, the degradation in service quality at the USPS over the last few weeks, and plans to address its ongoing financial issues.
“The bill is one thing, but attendant to that is the hearing the House will have next week, the Senate (had) a similar forum on Friday, to have the Postmaster General in, to have the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Chairman (Robert) Duncan in, to ask him ‘Where are we in terms of all the issues of the day?” Mr. McHugh said. “The cash, the standards, so on and so forth. That’s an important part of what Congress should do, so that’s a good thing.”