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DeJoy testifies before Congress, commits to delivering election ballots on time

The hearing got tense at times, and a videoconferencing problem produced a profane outburst from one senator.
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Postmaster General Louis DeJoy committed to delivering ballots and election mail on time in testimony before the U.S. Senate on Friday, his first public statement since the U.S. Postal Service has come under intense scrutiny for extensive mail delays.

A former logistics executive and close ally of President Donald Trump, DeJoy faced intense criticism for a number of policies he adopted that many said led to delivery delays of prescription drugs and financial documents and caused worries to grow that the Postal Service would not be able to handle ballots in the upcoming presidential election.

DeJoy told members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee that he would commit to delivering ballots within one to three days, as they have been in past elections, and he noted that he himself has voted by mail in the past.

“We will deploy processes and procedures that advances any election mail, in some cases ahead of first class mail,” DeJoy said.

“We all feel bad about what the dip in the level of service has been,” he added, insisting that many of the perceived changes — the removal of mailboxes and mail sorting machines — preceded his appointment in June.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the second Democrat to pursue questioning, appeared to suffer some technical difficulties during the hearing, which was conducted remotely from offices and homes. As committee chairman Ron Johnson prepared to move to the next senator, Carper suddenly came on the air in the videoconference and could be heard shouting his frustrations by repeating an obscenity, "F---, f---, f---."

An aide rushed over to help, and Carper then was able to pepper DeJoy with a series of rapid-fire questions.

In his testimony, DeJoy said his policy changes are still necessary, and that he was attempting to ensure that postal trucks go out on delivery on time, which would ensure greater deliveries. Operations at the processing plants did not meet his policy plans, he said.

“We have significant efforts to continue and improve on that process and everyone here is working here feverishly to get that right,” DeJoy said.

When asked for a detailed analysis of the agency's operations, the postmaster general would not immediately commit to providing the document to senators. He also would not say whether he did an analysis of how his policy changes would affect veterans, the elderly or families who send financial documents by mail.

“The only analysis I did was if trucks leave on time,” he said. “Everyone should have gotten their mail faster."

Many accused DeJoy of coordinating with the White House to undermine the vote by mail effort, which has grown considerably in states across the country because of COVID-19. Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin also held a series of undisclosed meetings with the Postal Service’s Board of Governors prior to DeJoy’s appointment, as the White House does not oversee putting someone in the post.

Mnuchin’s meetings, as well as a perceived broader array of financial and political conflicts of interest, led Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the ranking member of the committee, to ask DeJoy whether he met with the president.

“I have never spoken to the president about the postal service other than for him to congratulate me,” DeJoy said, further denying having met in depth with members of the administration or Trump campaign.

DeJoy did admit to speaking with Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, though he did not provide specifics about those conversations.

But the longtime Republican fundraiser did not fully align himself with his party.

Image: Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul arrives for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in Washington on Aug. 6, 2020.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

While many may have expected for DeJoy to mostly agree with the Republican senators, who largely criticized the Postal Service and did not hold the postmaster general personally accountable, he did push back on Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who said the agency should undergo major personnel cuts and decrease its commitment to delivering six days per week.

“The six-day delivery, the connection that the postal letter carrier has with the American people that gives us this highly trusted brand and where the economy is going in the future," DeJoy said, "I think that is probably our biggest strength to capitalize on."

Republican senators, including Johnson, attempted to pour cold water on the complaints that senators had received and the concerns that have bubbled up in recent months. Johnson called many of the complaints "ginned up" and insisted he was trying to parse his way through "fact and fiction."

Peters, whose office opened an investigation into the Postal Service delays, pushed back on that characterization, noting that the 7,500 complaints he has received from all over the country are very real. He placed particular emphasis on a woman who had not received her prescription in the mail, causing seizures and a hospitalization.

"These are real concerns that I'm hearing, these are not manufactured, these are people who are coming forward talking about delays, talking about medicine that is not available for them," Peters said. "When i hear those stories, we stand up. That's my job. That's the job of every senator here: to stand up for our constituents, for the people back home who are being hurt."