Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Tuesday that he is suspending certain changes at the U.S. Postal Service until after the 2020 election in order to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail."
DeJoy, whose sweeping cost-cutting measures at USPS have raised alarms about widespread mail delays that could impact the November vote, said in a statement that he is temporarily halting "some longstanding operational initiatives" that "predate my arrival at the Postal Service."
He didn't cite which specific initiatives he was suspending. He did, however, provide some assurances.
DeJoy's statement said that retail hours at post offices will not be changed, mail processing facilities will not be closed and that mail processing equipment will not be moved. He also said that "overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed."
DeJoy is a major donor to Republicans and committees supporting the reelection of President Donald Trump, who has claimed without evidence that an anticipated flood of mail-in ballots in the presidential race will lead to massive levels of voter fraud.
Democrats in recent weeks have sounded off about the steps DeJoy has taken at USPS in the months since he was selected for the role by the agency's board of governors, all of whom were appointed by Trump.
Those measures reportedly include crackdowns on making late delivery trips and cuts to overtime pay, among other changes. The overhaul of the government agency has led to significant delays in mail deliveries, according to mail workers' advocates and other figures.
USPS has also come under fire amid reports of mail-sorting machines across the country being removed from facilities. DeJoy's statement does not make clear if the machines that have already been removed will be returned to service.
"I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability," DeJoy said in the statement released by USPS on Tuesday. "I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election."
"In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic," he said. "To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded."
The statement also said that, starting in October, the agency will add "standby resources in all areas of our operations" to better handle "any unforeseen demand." An existing taskforce on election mail will also be expanded, the statement said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said on Twitter in response to DeJoy's statement that "we need to keep our eyes on DeJoy so he keeps his promise & doesn't find new ways to dismantle the USPS."
DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the majority-GOP Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday and the Democrat-led House Oversight Committee on Monday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Sunday said she is calling the House back into session in order to vote on a bill that would block DeJoy's reported operational changes "until the COVID-19 pandemic has ended."
The coronavirus pandemic is expected to prompt more Americans than ever to cast their ballots for president by mail. Some state leaders have made plans to expand access to mail-in ballots, including by sending out ballots directly to eligible voters.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump claimed that widespread mail-in voting will lead to "a disaster the likes of which our country has never seen."
"It'll end up being a rigged election or they will never come out with an outcome. They'll have to do it again," Trump said. "And nobody wants that."
DeJoy is a former supply chain CEO who is reportedly the first postmaster general in decades who has not been a career USPS employee. In addition to his overhaul of the post office, DeJoy has come under fire for his business investments, which some Democrats say could pose conflicts of interest.
Since taking charge of the agency in mid-June, he has stressed that the Postal Service faces financial oblivion unless "dramatic" changes are made to its structure.
Democrats are currently fighting to include $25 billion for the post office, as well as $3.6 billion in election funding, as part of their proposal for an additional coronavirus relief package. Trump has strongly signaled that those funds pose an insurmountable obstacle to a deal on additional stimulus money that could impact large swaths of the country.
"If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money, that means they can't have universal mail-in voting. They just can't have it," Trump said last week. "Sort of a crazy thing. Very interesting."
DeJoy, meanwhile, has insisted that the Postal Service has "ample capacity" to handle election mail.
But The Washington Post reported last week that the Postal Service is warning states that it cannot guarantee all mail-in ballots will arrive in time to be counted in the presidential race. The letters were issued at the end of July and planned before DeJoy was selected as the new postmaster general, according to the newspaper.
Read DeJoy's full statement below:
WASHINGTON, DC — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued the following statement today:
"The United States Postal Service will play a critical role this year in delivering election mail for millions of voters across the country. There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether the Postal Service is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge.
I want to make a few things clear:
The Postal Service is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall. Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation's election mail on time and within our well-established service standards. The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and election day. The 630,000 dedicated women and men of the Postal Service are committed, ready and proud to meet this sacred duty.
I am announcing today the expansion of our current leadership taskforce on election mail to enhance our ongoing work and partnership with state and local election officials in jurisdictions throughout the country. Leaders of our postal unions and management associations have committed to joining this taskforce to ensure strong coordination throughout our organization. Because of the unprecedented demands of the 2020 election, this taskforce will help ensure that election officials and voters are well informed and fully supported by the Postal Service.
I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election. In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.
I want to assure all Americans of the following:
In addition, effective Oct. 1, we will engage standby resources in all areas of our operations, including transportation, to satisfy any unforeseen demand.
I am grateful for the commitment and dedication of all the men and women of the Postal Service, and the trust they earn from the American public every day, especially as we continue to contend with the impacts of COVID-19. As we move forward, they will have the full support of our organization throughout the election."