Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, under fire for his changes to the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the 2020 election, said Friday that there are no plans to reinstall mail-sorting machines that have recently been removed from service.
"There's no intention to do that, they're not needed, sir," DeJoy said when asked by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., whether the machines removed under his watch would be brought back.
The remarks came at a virtual hearing before the Republican-majority Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where DeJoy faced a grilling from Democrats who questioned his overhaul of the government agency.
Since DeJoy started his role in mid-June, the USPS has been plagued by reports of widespread mail delays, which postal workers' advocates have attributed directly to the cost-cutting changes put in place by the former supply chain CEO.
Those changes reportedly include cracking down on late delivery trips and overtime for workers. Critics have also raised concerns amid reports of mail-sorting machines across the country being removed from facilities.
Lawmakers from both parties have called on DeJoy to reverse the changes. Democrats in particular have raised alarms that the mail delays could impact the 2020 presidential election in November, where the coronavirus pandemic is expected to prompt more Americans than ever to vote by mail.
President Donald Trump in recent months has frequently tried to sow doubt about the security of widespread mail-in voting, claiming without evidence that the efforts in some states to expand access to voting by mail will lead to massive amounts of fraud.
DeJoy, a major donor to Republicans and committees supporting Trump's reelection, admitted in the hearing that "certainly there was a slowdown in the mail when our production did not meet the schedule." But he maintained that USPS will be able to handle an influx in election mail in the fall.
He also pushed back on the conspiracy theory that his changes at the agency were politically motivated in order to boost Trump's chances against Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Recent polls show Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to cast their ballots for president by mail.
In prepared remarks, DeJoy said "a false narrative has developed" that his changes at the post office "are somehow designed to harm the ability of voters to use the mail to vote."
In the hearing, DeJoy reiterated that many of the changes under the most intense scrutiny at USPS predated his tenure. He said that he has implemented just two major changes since taking over: working within the agency to find ways to improve operations, and cutting back on late deliveries.
He also said that the removal of mail-sorting machines and mail collection receptacles – known as "blue boxes" – is a "normal process" that has been around for years.
DeJoy had assured in a statement Tuesday that "mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are" until after the 2020 election.
At the hearing Friday, DeJoy testified that "since my arrival we removed about 700 collection boxes, of which I had no idea that that was a process."
"When I found out about it," he said, "we looked at the excitement it was creating so I decided to stop it and we'll pick it up after the election."
He likewise said that he was "unaware" of the process of removing mail-sorting machines.
"It's been around for a couple of years now. We evaluate our machine capacity," Dejoy said. "The mail volume is dropping very rapidly especially during the Covid crisis, and package volume is growing ... we really are moving these machines out to make room to process packages."
"This has been going in every election year, in every year for that matter," DeJoy added.