Pelosi to Recall House From Recess for Vote to Provide More Postal Service Funding
Should the House pass a bill to provide additional funding to the USPS?
by Causes | 8.17.20
What’s the story?
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Sunday that she is recalling the House of Representatives from its August recess so that lawmakers can vote on a yet to be introduced bill to provide additional operational funding for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) ahead of the election.
- Pelosi accused the Trump administration of trying to “sabotage the election” by making “sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail, and - according to the Postal Service itself - threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion.” Pelosi added:
“The Postal Service is a pillar of our democracy, enshrined in the Constitution and essential for providing critical services: delivering prescriptions, Social Security benefits, paychecks, tax returns and absentee ballots to millions of Americans, including in our most remote communities.”
- The speaker previously insisted that “we cannot piecemeal” coronavirus relief legislation and Senate Democrats objected to unanimous passage of a clean, short-term extension of federally enhanced unemployment benefits that expired at the end of July. (It’s also worth noting that Social Security benefits have been delivered via direct deposit since 2010 when paper checks were phased out.)
- Pelosi’s decision to recall the House for a vote on a bill about the operational changes at the USPS bill comes after the postal agency became a contentious issue in coronavirus relief legislation. Democrats initially sought $25 billion for USPS, which would’ve canceled its $11 billion in debt to the Treasury, before they struck a deal with Republicans in the bipartisan CARES Act to provide USPS with a $10 billion credit line from the Treasury. Democrats later included provisions loosening restrictions on that credit line in the House-passed HEROES Act, which has stalled in the Senate.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that the Postal Service is “going to be just fine” and that the $10 billion provided by the CARES Act for USPS is more than enough to cover any needs that may arise.
- The House is expected to vote on USPS legislation to be introduced by House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney’s (D-NY) on Saturday, August 22nd. It’s unclear whether the House will remain in session to consider other legislation, and it appears likely to return to recess after Saturday's vote.
What’s going on at the Post Office?
- According to a multi-year study published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May 2020, the USPS has been in poor financial condition for years. USPS accrued net losses of $78 billion for fiscal years 2007 through 2019 due to a combination of declining mail volume, increased employee compensation and benefit costs, and increased debt and unfunded liabilities.
- For example, USPS figures show that mail volume declined from 149.5 billion pieces of mail in 2017 to 142.6 billion in 2019, with first-class mail volume declining from 58.7 billion to 54.9 billion in that time. Despite bringing in $71.1 billion in operating revenue in 2019, USPS operated at a net loss of $8.8 billion as its expenses continue to exceed income.
- Despite the financial difficulties, the USPS delivers 181.9 million pieces of first-class mail each day, and stated in early August 2020 that it has enough cash on hand to continue normal operations through at least August 2021. USPS also has the ability to receive a $10 billion line of credit from the Treasury Dept. if needed, which was authorized by the CARES Act but hasn’t been used yet as USPS & Treasury haven’t reached an agreement on the terms.
- Recent reforms implemented under the leadership of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, including instructing letter carriers to start their routes and return on time to reduce overtime and to leave each phase of their deliveries on a set scheduled, have raised concerns that a backlog of mail may accumulate in the lead up to Election Day. DeJoy acknowledged that his changes may have had some “unintended consequences that impacted our service levels overall” but that they’re “working feverishly” to make changes that will lead to better results.
- USPS executive vice presidents David Williams and Thomas Marshall wrote an op-ed in USA Today which stated that the agency will be able to handle all of America’s election-related mail:
“The U.S. Postal Service is well prepared and has ample capacity to deliver America’s election mail for the upcoming general election in November. On any given day, the Postal Service delivers more than 425 million pieces of mail, and our best estimates are that election mail will account for less than 2% of all mail volume from mid-September until Election Day. Given our available processing capacity, we can easily handle the anticipated increase in election mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, without impact to on-time performance.”
- Williams and Marshall also pushed back on assertions that recent changes will impact postal service:
“Contrary to media accounts and other accusations, there have been no edicts to delay the mail or eliminate overtime. Rather, we are ensuring that our operations run on time and on schedule, which will avoid unnecessary overtime and transportation costs. We are making these changes methodically and in ways designed to ensure the timely and cost-effective delivery of America’s mail ― including election mail.”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / hedidwhat)
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