(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Primary election voting in Maryland
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote on Saturday on providing the cash-strapped Postal Service with $25 billion and block policy changes that have stirred concerns about mail-in balloting ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
The Democratic-led chamber is widely expected to pass an emergency bill dubbed the “Delivering for America Act,” at a rare Saturday session called by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the congressional August recess.
As the debate got under way, Democrats predicted that some House Republicans would vote for the bill. But it is unlikely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. The White House strongly opposes the legislation and has said it would recommend Trump veto the measure.
With mail-in voting expected to surge during the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has alarmed Democrats by repeatedly denouncing mail-in ballots as a possible source of fraud. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy recently suspended cost-cutting measures that have slowed deliveries in recent weeks.
Democrats, who accuse Trump of trying to discourage mail-in balloting to gain an electoral advantage over Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, cast themselves in Saturday’s debate as defenders of a public that relies on the Postal Service for vital deliveries including prescription drugs.
“The American people do not want anyone messing with the Post Office. They certainly do not want it to be politicized. They just want their mail, they want their medicines and they want their mail-in ballots delivered in a timely way. And that is exactly what our bill does,” said Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney, who authored the legislation.
Maloney on Saturday released a Postal Service document showing a drop in service standards since July. The document showed a slowdown in processing of first class mail, but little impact on its last-mile delivery.
Republicans denied that the Postal Service was in any danger and criticized Democrats for moving legislation forward before DeJoy could testify at a House hearing slated for Monday.
“This is the result of a legislative process only slightly less absurd than the conspiracies, insinuations and fabrications that gave rise to the purported need for it,” said Republican Representative James Comer.
DeJoy told a Senate committee on Friday that the Postal Service would deliver ballots “securely and on time” in the November election but said bigger changes could come after that.
In fact, the House bill would prevent DeJoy from taking action until after next January or the end of the coronavirus health emergency, whichever comes later.
“Our legislation is not just about the election. It’s about – surprise, surprise, Mr. Postmaster General – the coronavirus!” Pelosi told a news conference.
Pelosi insisted that congressional action is necessary, calling DeJoy’s assurances ambiguous and unsatisfactory. “His comments are one thing. His actions will be another. And that’s why we have this legislation,” she said.
She said Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting were part of a larger effort to suppress voters that also includes his recent call for law enforcement officers to monitor voting at polling places.
U.S. House takes on Postal reforms seen as threat to mail-in ballots
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