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Lawmakers Called Back To Washington To Block Postal Service Changes


A lot of Americans are worried about the U.S. Postal Service. Cost-cutting measures have meant slower service, and we have an election coming up, where record numbers of people are expected to vote by mail. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called members back to Washington to vote on legislation that would block changes to how the USPS does things. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis has been following all this. Good morning, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So House Democrats are working on legislation.

DAVIS: Right. So Speaker Pelosi's calling the House back into session from its August recess, and they're going to vote on a bill that would block the post office from making any operational changes that were already in place on January of this year through January of next year.

And next week, the House Oversight Committee also plans to hold a hearing where they want to hear directly from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. They want to know more about these cost-cutting decisions that DeJoy has made that are translating to mail delays and why. And the fact that he's a major donor to President Trump is, of course, fueling allegations from Democrats that these decisions have been politically motivated, given the president's attacks on mail-in voting, which he has stated many times he believes will hurt his chances of winning reelection.

KING: You know, in light of the fact that U.S. politics is the way it is right now, it's not clear that this House bill would actually go anywhere. Why would Nancy Pelosi make lawmakers travel back to D.C. to vote on it, especially during a pandemic?

DAVIS: Well, she was under increasing pressure from all corners of the party to do something here. One example - a moderate Democrat, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, has publicly called for DeJoy to be arrested by the House sergeant-at-arms if he doesn't show up to testify next week. I think that speaks to the level of concern here. For Democrats, this is a five-alarm fire for the security of the election. It's unclear what Republicans, especially in the Senate, are going to do.

But I want to be clear that many Republicans share these concerns about making sure that ballots can be cast and counted and the fact that mail-in voting, historically, has been good to Republicans and Republican candidates, despite what President Trump continues to say.

KING: This was bubbling along for a while, and then it exploded when the president got on Fox Business News and said he was opposed to more postal funding because he's opposed to more voting by mail. Later that same day - this is last week - he tried to temper that statement a little bit, walked it back a bit. How much pressure is the White House under at this point?

DAVIS: Well, they're certainly on defense right now. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN on Sunday that the Postal Service will not make any more changes to mail sorting machines before the election. He also said the White House is willing to provide at least $10 billion, if not more, in funding for the post office, but he said Democrats are holding back on that because they want it as part of a bigger deal to address pandemic-related needs.

KING: NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.