Postmaster General Louis DeJoy denied Monday that policies he implemented led to the current mail delays, insisting that many changes, including the removal of blue collection boxes and mail sorting machines, preceded his assuming office June 15.
In heated exchanges with Democrats as he testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, DeJoy grew increasingly defensive, saying all he had done was to reshuffle the organization and try to have the U.S. Postal Service's trucks run on schedule.
Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., presented an internal Postal Service document, which appeared to have been prepared for DeJoy on Aug. 12, that showed an 8 percent to 10 percent drop in on-time mail deliveries since early July.
She emphasized that DeJoy, a former logistics executive, was in charge during the drop in service, but he refused to take sole responsibility for the slowdown.
"There are a lot of reasons for delays besides the action I took to run your trucks on time," he said. "There are other reasons for delays in the nation."
But one of DeJoy's changes has caused many delays, Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said, noting that trucks in Nashville were leaving the post office empty to try to stick to DeJoy's schedule.
"That's not efficiency," Cooper said. "That's insanity."
Cooper also led a series of heated questions that rankled DeJoy, focusing on his political history as a Republican fundraiser and donor to Donald Trump.
He asked whether DeJoy had given bonuses to employees in 2016 who donated to the Trump campaign and whether the Postal Service mail delays are his "implicit contributions" to the 2020 Trump campaign. Cooper also requested any communications between DeJoy and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump.
DeJoy answered no to the first two questions. He then said he hadn't had substantive communications with members of the Trump campaign or the administration, although later he admitted to having spoken to Mnuchin before he took his post.
"I talked to him about the job after I received the offer," DeJoy said. "I did not accept the offer immediately, OK?"
DeJoy also said he would not release his background check, as Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked about how his private investments overlapped with the Postal Service's direction. DeJoy said Raskin could read the Postal Service Office of the Inspector General's report once it had finished its probe into his actions and business dealings.
When later asked whether he would resign if the inspector general found any wrongdoing, DeJoy demurred.
"I don't believe they will find misconduct, but I don't know why I would commit here to resigning for any reason," he told Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif.
Critics and some lawmakers have questioned whether the Postal Service delays were intentional and meant to interfere with mail-in voting, which Trump has opposed. DeJoy, a close ally of the president's, said last week that he would suspend further changes to the Postal Service until after the election to avoid the appearance of influence.
Trump again stated his opposition to mail-in voting — an option that states have expanded as the country faces a pandemic — during his address to the Republican National Convention on Monday, as well as on Twitter, where he again floated his claim without evidence that mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud.
Maloney emphasized possible voter interference during her opening statement and said DeJoy's acts were "reckless" and were signs of "incompetence" or were directed by the president.
"Perhaps Mr. DeJoy is doing exactly what President Trump said he wanted on national television: using the blocking of funds to justify sweeping changes to hobble mail-in voting," she said.
DeJoy told the Senate Homeland Committee on Friday 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. He reaffirmed that expectation Monday, although he encouraged Americans to request their ballots and vote early.
"The Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation's ballots securely and on time," he said Monday. "This sacred duty is my No. 1 priority between now and election day."
Beyond the election, however, the delays have hurt thousands who rely on the Postal Service to deliver sometimes crucial or lifesaving prescriptions, as well as small businesses that increasingly rely on the agency's affordable and previously reliable delivery services.
Postal Service insiders blamed DeJoy's policies, primarily a ban on overtime and extra trips for carriers to ensure that mail arrives on time, as some of the reasons for the delays. DeJoy denied banning overtime, saying the Postal Service had spent $700 million on overtime since he took office and was providing overtime at the same rate as before his appointment.
During a particularly heated moment, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., emphasized the history of the Postal Service and its ability to deliver mail amid the most difficult periods of American history, including the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II.
"In my heart, I'm tempted to ask: After 240 years of patriotic service to delivering the mail, how can one person screw this up in just a few weeks?" Lynch said. "Now, I understand you bring private-sector expertise. I guess we couldn't find a government worker to screw it up this fast. It would take them a while."
DeJoy called Lynch's questions, including his final one about reconnecting mail sorting machines, "more misinformation for the American public."
Postal Service delays have gained increasing attention in past weeks, and the House passed a bill late Saturday that would authorize $25 billion in emergency funds for the agency. While it gained some support from House Republicans, it is expected to be met with opposition in the Senate.
James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the Oversight Committee, decried the passage of the Postal Service funding bill, particularly as representatives passed the bill before Monday's hearing with DeJoy.
"The president does not support the bill, the Postal Service does not support the bill, and the Senate will likely not take up the bill," he said. "This is a political stunt."
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Republicans on the committee cast DeJoy as a scapegoat for delays that have long defined the Postal Service and insisted that Democrats were participating in political theater. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., emphasized that point in introducing DeJoy.
"How sad is it when the cancel culture has reached the halls of Congress," Walker said. "The man sitting before this committee today is not who the Democrats have villainized him to be. He's here today because he supported President Trump."
Robert M. Duncan, chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, also testified Monday, although most of the questions were aimed at DeJoy. The board has come under scrutiny recently for meetings it held with Mnuchin before DeJoy's appointment.
During his opening statement, Duncan, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said that when the previous postmaster general announced her retirement, the governors sought someone who would "increase our efficiency and cut down on unnecessary expenses" and that they were particularly interested in a "transformational leader" from the private sector.
"Mr. DeJoy was selected to be that transformational leader who can help strengthen the Postal Service for the long term," Duncan said.