03:15 - Source: CNN
Lawmaker stumps postmaster general with postcard question
Washington CNN  — 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified in front of the Democrat-led House Oversight Committee on Monday in a contentious hearing where Democrats criticized his leadership at the agency and raised concerns over mail delivery delays.

The issues have arisen during the coronavirus pandemic and in the run-up to the presidential election as President Donald Trump rails against mail-in voting.

Congressional Republicans countered the accusations, arguing that the postmaster general is acting in good faith and that any problems plaguing the agency pre-date his tenure, while DeJoy defended his leadership and sought to reassure that the US Postal Service is equipped to securely handle election mail this fall.

Here are seven takeaways from the hearing:

Democrats threaten DeJoy with a subpoena

The House hearing, where Democrats are in the majority, was notably more hostile than a hearing before a Republican-led Senate panel with DeJoy that took place Friday.

In a sign of a potential escalation between House Democrats and the postmaster general in the weeks to come, House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, warned DeJoy to “expect a subpoena” if he withholds information from the committee in the future.

Maloney admonished DeJoy during the hearing, telling him, “You’re withholding information from us, concealing documents and downplaying the damage that you’re causing.” Referencing documents requested by the committee, Maloney warned, “If you continue to withhold information or otherwise fail to comply, you can expect a subpoena.”

The House Oversight chairwoman rebuked the postmaster general, saying that if any CEO had the kind of “plummeting record” that the Postal Service has had under his leadership so far, “I can’t imagine why he would be kept on.” DeJoy responded sharply, saying, “That’s an unfair accusation.”

Later during the hearing, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York asked DeJoy for a commitment to submit records of his daily calendar to the committee.

DeJoy said that if he is required to comply with the request he would.

Ocasio-Cortez responded by raising the possibility of a subpoena, saying, “The details of this calendar are extraordinarily important to the committee’s investigations and if we cannot receive them voluntarily, I would recommend consideration of a subpoena.”

DeJoy defends record at USPS and pushes back on criticism

Amid Democratic attacks, DeJoy defended his tenure at the agency, arguing that there is misinformation about what he has done since taking over as postmaster general and saying that he wants to correct the record.

“There are many inaccuracies about my actions that I wish to again correct,” DeJoy said in his testimony.

DeJoy asserted that he did not direct the removal of blue mail collection boxes or mail processing equipment or the cutback in hours at any post offices. He also said he did not direct an elimination or cutback in overtime.

“I did, however, suspend these practices to remove any misperceptions about our commitment to delivering the nation’s election mail. Any further assertions by the media or elected officials is furthering a false narrative to the American people,” he said.

A July 10 internal memo directed to all USPS employees did not explicitly state that overtime was ending. But it did create specific conditions that, union officials tells CNN, directly led to a significant majority of overtime opportunities being eliminated and prevented.

As DeJoy described on Monday actions he has taken as postmaster general, he conceded that there has been a “temporary service decline.”

One action was to direct “a plan to improve our adherence to the transportation schedule of our over 40,000 trips a day.” DeJoy said the postal service “accomplished this goal.” But he noted, “We have had temporary service decline, which should not have happened,” adding, “We are fixing this.”

The postmaster general said another change he made was “installing a new organizational reporting structure,” which he said would “instill greater accountability for performance and to focus the organization on service and growth.” He argued that these changes “will be the catalyst for significant improvements in cost, performance and growth” for the Postal Service.

DeJoy insists USPS is ready to handle election mail …

Reiterating what he said at Friday’s Senate hearing, DeJoy insisted that the USPS stands ready to deliver election mail – a key concern for Democrats during the pandemic, which is expected to lead to a surge of mail-in ballots.

“The Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s ballots securely and on time,” DeJoy testified, describing the charge as a “sacred duty” and his “number one priority between now and Election Day.”

DeJoy did, however, urge Americans who plan to vote by mail not to wait until the last minute to do so.

“I encourage all Americans who choose to vote by mail to request their ballots early and to vote early as a common sense best practice,” he said.

Later during the hearing, DeJoy said definitively, “We will be able to handle all election mail for the 2020 election.”

… but concedes concern over ‘deterioration in service’

Pressed by Democrats over a mail slowdown, DeJoy conceded that the Postal Service is “concerned with the deterioration in service,” but argued that the agency is recovering amid a focus on improvements.

The assessment from DeJoy came after Maloney accused him of downplaying mail delays, saying, “This is just a disaster for the people who need their mail.”

In response, DeJoy said, “We are very concerned with the deterioration in service and are working very diligently. In fact, we’re seeing a big recovery this week.”

He went on to say, “We’re starting to see a nice recovery,” adding, “We have a real good shot of getting to the stated metrics that we are supposed to be governed by.”

As he did during Friday’s Senate hearing, DeJoy also discussed the toll the coronavirus crisis has taken on the agency and its employees.

The postmaster general confirmed during Monday’s hearing that 83 postal service workers have died from Covid-19.

Democrats grill DeJoy who says he ‘will not’ put sorting machines back

During the hearing, Democrats on the panel grilled the postmaster general in a series of tense exchanges.

At one point, Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts questioned DeJoy over whether he would return mail-sorting machines that had been removed.

“In the middle of a pandemic that has killed 170,000 Americans, and on the eve of a national election at a time when the CDC is advising people not to gather, limit outside contact, the Postal Service started removing 671 high-speed mail sorting machines across the country,” Lynch charged.

The Democratic congressman pressed DeJoy, “Will you put the machines back?”

“No, I will not,” DeJoy responded. As he testified during Friday’s Senate hearing, DeJoy said Monday that the machines “are not necessary.”

At another point in the hearing, Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California quizzed DeJoy on his knowledge of the agency in highly specific terms.

First, Porter asked DeJoy the cost of a first-class postage stamp. He replied, “55 cents.”

The congresswoman followed up by asking the cost to mail a postcard. He responded, “I don’t know.” Porter then asked, “What if it’s, like, one of those greeting cards that’s a square envelope – then what is the postage?”

He responded, “I’ll submit that I know very little about a postage stamp.”

DeJoy had contact with Trump campaign associates about USPS and vote by mail attacks

During the hearing, DeJoy indicated that he has had contact with Trump campaign associates over the issue of attacks on vote by mail and the Postal Service.

Asked if he told the Board of Governors that he has been in touch with the Trump campaign to ask them to stop attacks on the Postal Service and voting by mail, DeJoy responded, “I have put word around to different people that this is not helpful.”

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

The comments from the postmaster general come as Trump has repeatedly and baselessly attacked mail-in voting, falsely claiming that it is rife with fraud.

During Friday’s Senate hearing, DeJoy testified that he plans to vote by mail, saying, “I’m going to vote by mail myself,” when asked if he supports absentee voting and voting by mail.

USPS board chair describes how DeJoy got top job

Mike Duncan, chairman of the USPS Board of Governors who was also a witness at the same hearing as DeJoy, testified virtually about how the board selected DeJoy to serve as postmaster general, calling it an “organized, deliberate, through search process.”

Duncan said that the board agreed that “the Postal Service would benefit from a transformational leader.”

The testimony comes amid increasing scrutiny from Democrats over how DeJoy got the top job at USPS.

Duncan, like DeJoy, argued that the USPS is prepared to handle election mail this fall. “The board has confidence in the postal service’s ability to perform for the American people in this election season,” he said.

CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Ellie Kaufman, Austen Bundy, Marshall Cohen, Paul P. Murphy and Skylar Mitchell contributed to this report.