The House will vote Saturday morning on a bill that would include $25 billion in new funding for the U.S. Postal Service and reverse changes implemented in recent weeks to mail delivery and operations.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer informed Democrats about the schedule update in a private caucus call Monday, adding that the bill text was still being finalized. The $25 billion funding boost for the Postal Service will be added to a bill introduced by Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., according to a senior Democratic aide.
The House was not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 14, but growing alarm over significant mail service and operational changes ahead of an election that is expected to see record use of mail-in voting prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi to interrupt the August recess to take action.
Changes enacted under Louis DeJoy, the U.S. postmaster general and a Trump megadonor, have resulted in delays in delivery and curtailed service. Post offices have been ordered to keep mail until the next day if postal distribution centers are running late, and overtime was eliminated for hundreds of thousands of postal workers.
DeJoy on Monday agreed to testify before Maloney’s panel at an Aug. 24 hearing.
Maloney’s underlying bill would require postal services and operations that were in place on Jan. 1, 2020, to be restored and maintained through 2021 or the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, whichever comes later. That would include undoing changes to overtime pay policies, service standards and closures of post offices or processing facilities.
According to the senior Democratic aide, the $25 billion figure was recommended by the Postal Service’s Board of Governors. All six governors and DeJoy were appointed by President Donald Trump.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Democratic leaders would make other addition’s to Maloney’s bill before going to the floor.
The House passed a broader coronavirus aid package in May that included the $25 billion, but talks with the White House and Senate Republicans on relief measures stalled before the August recess.
Trump said last week he opposed emergency funding for election operations and the Postal Service because it could allow more people to vote by mail.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows remains open to a piecemeal approach, tackling the Postal Service separately from coronavirus aid. Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have said they offered $10 billion during recent aid talks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking in Kentucky on Monday, said Mnuchin “already indicated the administration is prepared to spend $10 billion to make sure the post office is on good terms.”
Meadows told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the administration might consider a figure between its $10 billion offer and the Democrats’ $25 billion. But he said other relief measures should also be incorporated into any legislation funding the Postal Service, such as a new round of tax rebates like the $1,200 checks that went out under the March aid law.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are speaking out about service cutbacks that are affecting constituents, especially rural ones or those depending on prescriptions and other essentials to reach them by mail.
Meadows said Monday that Postal Service funding is “not really a stumbling block,” in terms of a coronavirus aid package.
He said the president is “willing to provide money for the post office as long as it is included in some other skinny measure if we cannot agree to a larger deal,” according to the White House press pool.
Meadows also downplayed the mail interruptions, delays and service reductions underway at post offices across the country. He said those woes were not rooted in funding, but in the need for long-term restructuring.
“This is not the first time we’ve seen delays in our postal system,” he said.
By Katherine Tully-McManus, CQ-Roll Call