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DeJoy defends USPS changes as Democrats attack ‘disaster’ facing mail delivery

In this image from video, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies during a virtual hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on the U.S. Postal Service during COVID-19 and the upcoming elections, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (US Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs via AP)

 (CNN) — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy faced a barrage of sharp attacks on Monday from House Democrats, who criticized DeJoy’s actions and questioned his motivations since taking on his role leading the U.S. Postal Service in June.

DeJoy defended his performance as postmaster general during a heated hearing before the House Oversight Committee on Monday, downplaying the changes he made and saying he was focused on stopping the Postal Service’s money-losing ways.

But DeJoy faced pointed questions from Democrats, along with attacks over his role as a finance official in the Republican National Committee and a major donor to President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly attacked mail-in voting.

House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney accused DeJoy of withholding information from Congress, threatening a subpoena, and suggested if a corporate CEO had his “plummeting record” they would be removed. Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts launched into a lengthy speech attacking DeJoy before pressing him to return mail-sorting machines that had been removed.

“I will not,” DeJoy responded.

And Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, questioned DeJoy’s role as deputy national finance chairman for the RNC, asking whether he had rewarded employees at his former company, XPO Logistics, who contributed to Trump’s campaign.

“That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it,” DeJoy responded.

In his testimony, DeJoy acknowledged that a “deterioration in service” had occurred following changes to mail trucks taking additional trips, but he said the USPS was already seeing a bounce-back. And he argued that other changes, like the removal of mail-processing machines, were already happening before he took over in June.

“There are many inaccuracies about my actions that I wish to again correct,” DeJoy said. “First, I did not direct the removal of blue collection boxes or the removal of mail processing equipment. Second, I did not direct the cutback on hours at any of our postal offices, and finally I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime. I did, however, suspend these practices to remove any misperceptions about our commitment to delivering the nation’s election mail.”

Republicans accused Democrats of manufacturing a political crisis with the mail to help the party politically, arguing the Postal Service’s fiscal woes are a long-running problem and DeJoy is trying to address them. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, charged that Democrats had “fabricated a baseless conspiracy theory.”

“Is the postmaster general sabotaging the election by removing blue postal boxes and mail sorting machines? No, the Postal Service has more than adequate capacity to handle the vote-by-mail,” Comer said. “If everybody in the US requests and sends their ballots via mail, that’s still less than one day’s average volume.”

DeJoy testified before the GOP-led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday, where he was pressed by Democrats and Republicans alike about delays in the mail that lawmakers have heard about across the country. He faced a far more hostile reception in the House, where 90 Democrats called for DeJoy’s removal last week, including many committee members.

Multiple Democrats called on DeJoy to resign or be removed by the USPS Board of Governors at the conclusion of their five minutes to question DeJoy.

“This is just a disaster for the people who need their mail,” said Maloney, a New York Democrat.

Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California quizzed DeJoy on the price of several USPS products and other statistics: DeJoy knew that a stamp cost 55 cents but could not name the price to mail a postcard or how many people voted by mail in the 2016 election. Several other Democrats pushed DeJoy on providing the committee with information on his financial holdings, his calendars and the background check conducted before he was appointed.

House Democrats, who passed legislation on Saturday to provide USPS an additional $25 billion, also pressed USPS Board of Governors Chairman Mike Duncan on what role Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has played in DeJoy’s selection. DeJoy said he did not speak to Mnuchin sbout the Postal Service until after he was offered the job.

Duncan, who testified alongside DeJoy, defended the board’s appointment of DeJoy, saying DeJoy was unanimously selected following a rigorous selection process.

“There must be dramatic changes if the Postal Service is to succeed. Mr. DeJoy was selected to be that transformational leader, who can help strengthen the Postal Service for the long term,” Duncan said. “He is the fifth Postmaster General since 1971 to join the institution from the private sector, and we believe that private sector experience is an asset in identifying ways to improve the Postal Service.”

DeJoy defended his efforts to curb the costs of the Postal Service, arguing they were necessary to stop fiscal losses that have occurred for a decade.

“Am I the only one in this room that understands we have a $10 billion a year loss?” DeJoy asked lawmakers on Monday.

But one reason Democrats have raised the alarm about Postal Service cuts is that Trump has continued to rail on mail-in voting, falsely claiming that it will lead to significant fraud and a “rigged” election, suggesting USPS cannot handle the additional volume.

“All the Radical Left Democrats are trying to do with the Post Office hearings is blame the Republicans for the FRAUD that will occur because of the 51 Million Ballots that are being sent to people who have not even requested them. They are setting the table for a BIG MESS!” Trump tweeted during Monday’s hearing.

DeJoy has defended vote-by-mail in his testimony, and he said Monday he had “put word around to different people that this is not helpful,” though he declined to identify any of the people he spoke to.

“I have not spoken to Trump campaign leadership in that regard,” DeJoy said. “I have spoken to people that are friends of mine that are associated with the campaign, yes.”

Monday’s hearing occurred after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called lawmakers back to Washington for a rare Saturday session to approve legislation that provided the Postal Service with a $25 billion boost, along with suspending the changes DeJoy has put in place, which Democrats say is to ensure the election was safeguarded.

The bill passed 257-150, with more than two dozen Republicans joining with Democrats in favor. The White House has issued a veto threat, and the measure is not expected to be taken up by the Republican-led Senate.

In his testimony, DeJoy said he did not direct curtailing of overtime, but changes to USPS operations detailed in a July memo significantly curtailed a majority of opportunities for overtime.

When DeJoy told Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, that he hadn’t ended overtime, Quigley asked him if he was certain that overtime hadn’t been cut.

“No, I’m not certain, that’s part of the problem at the Postal Service, sir,” DeJoy responded.

DeJoy also clashed with several lawmakers over the Postal Service’s finances and changes that have gone into effect since he took over, in particular the removal of high-speed mail sorting machines.

DeJoy and Rep. Harley Rouda, a California Democrat, got into a heated exchange over not plugging back in sorting machines that had been disconnected, which DeJoy said was not something he directed.

“You’re the head of the business, the buck stops with you,” Rouda said.

“The buck on what machine gets plugged in? That’s outrageous,” DeJoy responded.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, pressed DeJoy on why sorting machines couldn’t be restored. He suggested that if Congress provided $1 billion in funding, would DeJoy put them back online and “restore people’s faith in a democracy and avoid a polarized electorate?”

“Get me the billion and I’ll put the machines in,” DeJoy said.

“OK, well, that’s a commitment,” Khanna responded. “We’ll find a way to get you the money.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.