Eight members of Congress from Illinois are scheduled to visit the Chicago U.S. Postal Service headquarters on Tuesday ahead of a critical vote in the House to act on reported delays.
Reps. Mike Quigley, Sean Casten, Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider, Bill Foster, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Raja Krishnamoorthi, all Democrats, were scheduled to join the visit beginning at around 9 a.m. alongside the presidents of two branches of Chicago postal workers unions.
Their visit comes after U.S. Postal Service warned states coast to coast that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted, even if mailed by state deadlines, raising the possibility that millions of voters could be disenfranchised.
Voters and lawmakers in several states are also complaining that some curbside mail collection boxes are being removed.
President Donald Trump said last week that he was blocking a $25 billion emergency injection sought by the Postal Service, as well as a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6 billion in additional election money to the states. The Republican president worries that mail-in voting could cost him reelection. The money for the post office is intended to help with processing an expected surge of mail-in ballots. Both funding requests have been tied up in congressional negotiations over a new coronavirus relief package.
Even as Trump rails against widescale voting by mail, the post office is bracing for an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots as a result of the pandemic.
The warning letters sent to states raise the possibility that many Americans eligible for mail-in ballots this fall will not have them counted. But that is not the intent, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in his own letter to Democratic congressional leaders.
The post office is merely “asking elected officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works, and be mindful of our delivery standards, in order to provide voters ample time to cast ballots through the mail," wrote DeJoy, a prominent Trump political donor who was recently appointed.
The back-and-forth comes amid a vigorous campaign by Trump to sow doubts about mail-in voting as he faces a difficult fight for reelection against Democrat Joe Biden.
Though Trump casts his own ballots by mail, he’s repeatedly criticized efforts to allow more people to do so, which he argues without evidence will lead to increased voter fraud that could cost him the election. Meanwhile, members of Congress from both parties have voiced concerns that curbside mail boxes, which is how many will cast their ballots, have abruptly been removed in some states.
At the same time that the need for timely delivery of the mail is peaking, service has been curtailed amid cost-cutting and efficiency measures ordered by the DeJoy, the new postmaster general, who is a former supply-chain CEO and a financial supporter of Trump and other Republicans. He has implemented measures to eliminate overtime pay and hold mail over if distribution centers are running late.
Officials in more than a dozen states, including the presidential election battlegrounds of Michigan and Pennsylvania, all confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that they had received the warning letters.
Meanwhile, the removal of Postal Service collection mail boxes triggered concerns and anger across the country.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she is calling the House back into session over the crisis at the U.S. Postal Service, setting up a political showdown amid growing concerns that the Trump White House is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the election.
Pelosi is cutting short lawmakers' summer recess with a vote expected the Saturday after the Democratic National Convention on legislation that would prohibit changes at the agency as tensions mount.
“In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central," Pelosi wrote Sunday in a letter to colleagues, who had been expected to be out of session until September. “Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the president.”
Earlier Sunday, Democratic lawmakers demanded that leaders of the Postal Service testify at an emergency oversight hearing Aug. 24 on mail delays.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee said it wants to hear from DeJoy and from the chair of the Postal Service board of governors, Robert “Mike” Duncan.
The agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment about whether the two men would appear before the House committee. But it said Sunday it would stop removing its distinctive blue mailboxes through mid-November following complaints from customers and members of Congress that the collection boxes were being taken away.
The legislation being prepared for the vote, the “Delivering for America Act,” would prohibits the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on Jan. 1.