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Casey accuses Trump of attacking election, undermining Postal Service

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

York County's two congressional representatives and Pennsylvania's U.S. senators fell along party lines this week in their comments about the U.S. Postal Service controversy.

Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, was the only lawmaker of the four who said President Donald Trump was trying to undermine the functions of the postal service by removing equipment and withholding funding in order to stymie delivery of mail-in ballots and cheat in the election.

"This can only be called a five-alarm fire for our democracy," Casey said in a video news conference Tuesday.

Casey also said Congress should immediately pass the $25 billion in aid to the Postal Service that was part of the most recently proposed COVID-19 relief bill and that he would vote for the funding even if it were $50 billion.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and GOP donor, has been dogged by questions in recent days about cost-cutting changes in USPS operations, including the removal of some sorting machines and the elimination of overtime hours.

A mail carrier delivers to a neighborhood on North Point Drive in Manchester Township, Tuesday, August 18, 2020
John Pavoncello photo.

After being called to testify before lawmakers and with a looming threat of legal action from several states, including Pennsylvania, DeJoy reversed course Tuesday and announced he would delay any operational changes until after the general election in November.

"I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability," DeJoy stated. "I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election."

In the announcement, DeJoy said post office retail hours will not change, sorting machines and blue collection boxes will remain in place, mail-processing locations will stay open and all necessary overtime hours will be approved.

Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that mail-in voting is rife with fraud. This past week, Trump admitted  recently while appearing on Fox News that he was starving the Postal Service in an effort to make it harder to process an influx of mail-in ballots. 

More:Trump opposes postal money that would help vote-by-mail

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Tuesday his office intends to file a lawsuit in the next day or two against Robert M. Duncan, chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, and DeJoy for allegedly skirting the proper procedure to make such sweeping changes to Postal Service operations.

"There is a process for changes like this, one that requires going before the postal regulatory commission and holding public hearings," Shapiro said. "None of that happened here."

Shapiro also said that as of Tuesday, there was no evidence that changes made to blue collection boxes or sorting machines in Pennsylvania had disrupted mail service. But he said his office continues to investigate that issue.

With a chart outlining his department's accomplishments as a backdrop, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro talks with York Dispatch staff Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. There were 16 homicides in York City in 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, is against even the hint of any hindrance or manipulation of a governmental entity for political purposes, said press secretary Bill Jaffee.

"That being said, the United States Postal Service is funded through April of 2021," Jaffee said. "It also has access to a $10 billion loan fund that was established by the Treasury Department via the CARES Act, and it is likely that the next COVID-19 bill will provide even more direct assistance."

One oft-cited aspect of the USPS's dire financial situation is the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which required the postal service to prefund future retiree's health benefits.

Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, has supported legislation in the past to remove the future funding requirement, spokesperson Eric Reath stated.

"Regarding the election and by-mail voting, Rep. Smucker, like all voters, wants to be sure everyone’s vote is counted securely and accurately," Reath stated.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, said in an email Tuesday that the Postal Service provides "critical and lifesaving services" but that Congress has ignored the systemic financial problems at the USPS, citing an $8.8 billion operating deficit in the last fiscal year and several prior years of losses.

"Instead of doing the work needed to institute meaningful reforms that ensure an efficient and financially stable USPS for years to come, Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi wants to take the easy route, yet again, and put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in bailouts," Perry stated.

More:EDITORIAL: Stop Trump’s assault on Constitution

More:Mail could be delayed under new postal boss’s cost-cutting plan