House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and 174 other Democrats in the chamber signed a letter sent Wednesday to the new Postmaster General demanding the agency reverses operational changes they argue would hamper mail-in voting on Nov. 3.
"It is always essential that the Postal Service be able to deliver mail in a timely and effective manner. During the once-in-a-century health and economic crisis of COVID-19, the Postal Service's smooth functioning is a matter of life-or-death, and is critical for protecting lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy," the lawmakers wrote.
"The House is seriously concerned that you are implementing policies that accelerate the crisis at the Postal Service, including directing Post Offices to no longer treat all election mail as First Class. If implemented now, as the election approaches, this policy will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions."
The new head of the Postal Service, Louis DeJoy, a donor to President Donald Trump, recently made a series of changes to the agency that could disrupt mail for millions of Americans, particularly absentee and mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day.
The cost-cutting measures, intended to address the Postal Service's longtime financial problems, were imposed last month after DeJoy, who owned a North Carolina supply-chain, took over the top job in June. DeJoy, 63, is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee.
DeJoy also eliminated overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and mandates that mail is kept until the next day if distribution centers are running late. He also removed or reassigned nearly two dozen postal leaders, implemented a hiring freeze and requested "early retirement authority" for nonunion employees.
Last week, the U.S. Postal Service announced a third-quarter net loss of $2.2 billion. In a statement, the agency said even Congressional relief funds of $10 billion would "not address the Postal Service's broken business model."
“We will respond directly to the members of Congress," a Postal Service spokesperson said. They also referred to comments DeJoy made last week where he maintained the agency could handle the surge, but "cannot correct the errors of the Election Boards if they fail to deploy processes that take our normal processing and delivery standards into account.”
Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also had a closed-door meeting with DeJoy this month that Schumer described as "heated." House Democrats have demanded measures in any final pandemic spending bill that would roll back the operational changes and give the agency $25 billion in one-time funding.
At Wednesday's briefing at the White House, Trump railed against the Postal Service's handling the vast amount of mail-in voting during the pandemic and the funding request.
"The post office has been run poorly for many, many decades," he said. "Great people in the post office, incredible people but they've had very bad leadership for many years."
He added, "And the bill’s not going to happen because they don't even want to talk about it because we can't give them the kind of ridiculous things that they want."
CLARIFICATION: (Aug. 13, 2020, 8:10 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article imprecisely described Louis DeJoy's relationship to President Donald Trump. Although DeJoy is an ally of Trump and a donor to his campaign, he was appointed to the job of postmaster general by the postal service's board of governors, not directly by Trump.