Pelosi weighs bringing House back early to address Postal Service crisis

Pelosi weighs bringing House back early to address Postal Service crisisAugust 16, 2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leaders are considering cutting short the August recess and bringing the chamber back into session to deal with the unfolding crisis at the U.S. Postal Service, according to Democratic sources.

The House could return to vote with the next two weeks, the Democratic sources suggested. The chamber is currently in recess, with no votes scheduled until the week of Sept. 14.

Pelosi and other top Democrats, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), discussed the possibility of returning early during an emergency leadership call Saturday afternoon.

Democrats are looking to address organizational issues at the Postal Service in the coming weeks, not to provide additional funding at this time, according to sources familiar with the discussion.

One option would be to vote on a modified version of a bill introduced by House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) earlier this week that would prohibit USPS from implementing a planned organizational overhaul that critics maintain would handicap mail-in voting.

Other top Democrats also floated addressing other issues, including expired federal unemployment benefits and voting rights. But Democratic sources said the immediate focus — at least for now — is preserving the Postal Service ahead of the election.

On Friday, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a scathing statement accusing President Donald Trump and Republicans of waging an “all-out assault on the Postal Service and its role in ensuring the integrity of the 2020 election.” Their statement came after Trump said he opposes a federal infusion of funds to save the flailing postal service because he doesn’t support mail-in voting.

“The President made plain that he will manipulate the operations of the Post Office to deny eligible voters the ballot in pursuit of his own re-election,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “The President’s own words confirm: he needs to cheat to win.”

Democrats point to Trump’s recent comments to Fox Business Network suggesting that he opposed more money for the Postal Service because of the expected record wave of mail-in ballots in November due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“They want three-and-a-half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically,” Trump said this week. “They want three-and-a-half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”

Frustration has been growing in both parties over the lack of response to the U.S. economic situation while Congress remains in recess. On Friday, roughly a half-dozen House members spoke by phone with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to discuss ways to break the impasse.

The group, dubbed the Problem Solvers Caucus, included members of both parties, including swing district Democrats like Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).

But congressional leaders have failed to reach a wide-ranging coronavirus deal despite weeks of back and forth negotiations between the White House and Democratic leaders. Both chambers have recessed for the traditional August recess.

House Democrats included $25 billion for the USPS in their coronavirus bill in May, along with an additional $3.6 billion in election security funding. The White House and Democratic leaders tentatively agreed to as much as $10 billion for the Postal Service in their negotiations, but that was contingent on the rest of the agreement being nailed down, which wasn’t anywhere near happening.

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