Facing mounting public pressure and a crush of state lawsuits, President Donald Trump’s new postmaster general announced Tuesday he is halting some operational changes to mail delivery that critics blamed for widespread delays and warned could disrupt the November election.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he would “suspend” several of his initiatives — including the removal of the distinctive blue mail boxes that prompted an outcry — until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”
“We will deliver the nation’s election mail on time,” DeJoy said in a statement.
The abrupt reversal from DeJoy, who is set to testify Friday before the Senate, comes as more than 20 states, from New York to California, announced they would be suing to stop the changes. Several vowed they would press on, keeping a watchful eye on the Postal Service ahead of the election.
“What’s going on right now is nothing less than a full-on assault by this administration on the U.S. Postal Service, an institution that millions of Americans rely on every single day,” said Bob Ferguson, the attorney general in Washington state, at a news conference.
Ferguson and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced they were leading collections of other states in suing to block service changes at the Postal Service, just as the postmaster was making his own statement Tuesday. Both Shapiro and Ferguson said they would not take DeJoy at his word.
“We need to see binding action to reverse these changes,” Shapiro said.
The crisis at the Postal Service has erupted as a major election year issue as DeJoy, a Republican donor who took control of the agency in June, has swiftly engineered cuts and operational changes that are disrupting mail delivery operations and raising alarms that Trump is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the election.
At the White House, Trump has flatly denied he is seeking to slow-walk the mail, even has he leveled fresh assaults Tuesday on mail-in voting and universal ballots. More Americans than ever are expected to choose to vote absentee during the coronavirus outbreak.
“You can’t have millions and millions of ballots sent all over the place, sent to people that are dead, sent to dogs, cats, sent everywhere,” Trump told reporters.
“This isn’t games and you have to get it right,” Trump said.
Some of the initiatives DeJoy said he was shelving until after the election had already been announced.
DeJoy said Tuesday he is halting the planned removal of mail-processing machines and blue collection boxes, as well as an initiative to change retail hours at post offices. He also said that no mail processing facilities will be closed and said the agency has not eliminated overtime.
One initiative that DeJoy didn’t single out in his announcement was the newly imposed constraints on when mail can go out for delivery — a change that postal workers have said is fueling delays. A Postal Service spokesman declined to comment beyond DeJoy’s statement.
Trump made clear last week that he was blocking $25 billion emergency aid to the Postal Service, acknowledging he wanted to curtail election mail operations, as well as a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6 billion in additional election money to the states to help process an expected surge of mail-in ballots.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back to Washington over the crisis as lawmakers held demonstrations in cities nationwide, pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to resume session. One protest was in Atlanta, where vulnerable GOP Sen. David Perdue faces a tough reelection.
The House is expected to vote Saturday on legislation that would prohibit changes at the agency. The package will also include $25 billion to shore up the Postal Service, which faces continued financial losses.