WASHINGTON -- Under fire from Congressional Democrats, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced today he will suspend several cost-cutting initiatives in an effort "to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail... until after the election is concluded."
"I want to assure all Americans of the following:
1. Retail hours at Post Offices will not change. 2. Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are. 3. No mail processing facilities will be closed. 4. And we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed."
DeJoy was already slated to appear Friday before the Senate to testify on mail delivery delays and service changes that lawmakers and others warned could imperil the November election.
Several local rallies have been scheduled across the U.S. as the House is also set to vote Saturday on a measure that is expected to include $25 billion in new funding to shore up the agency and stop any planned changes.
She said she has reservations as to whether Pres. Donald Trump would sign the bill, but she's hopeful.
Funding for the USPS suddenly became a major campaign issue, with Democrats accusing Trump of using the postal service to sabotage the election. It's a claim the president denies, instead -- and without proof -- linking mail-in voting to widespread fraud.
"You have to get voting right," he said Tuesday. "You can't have millions and millions of ballots sent all over the place, sent to people who are dead, sent to dogs, cats. This is a serious situation, this isn't games. I just want to get it right. Win lose or draw, I think we will win, but win lose or draw, we have to get it right."
The controversy started heating up after a July 10 Trump Administration memo called for restructuring and eliminating overtime to save money. The change was proposed by DeJoy, who is also a Trump campaign donor.
The agency has been bleeding money for years, but critics believe the real motivation for the cuts is to slow down an expected surge in absentee ballots in the November presidential election.
"The post office, by slowing down the mail, is hurting millions of Americans, millions of New Yorkers, and it's worse during a COVID crisis," U.S. Sen Chuck Schumer said. "To slow down the mail at any time is disgraceful. To slow it down during COVID is despicable and hurts people's lives."
President Trump now insists he wants to save the U.S. Post Office, and the Trump Administration calls the lawsuit being filed by the attorneys general of 10 states politically motivated.
Before DeJoy's decision, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, pleaded with Trump to postpone any needed changes to the U.S. Postal Service until after Election Day. GOP Sen. Rob Portman and other Republicans in the swing state's congressional delegation urged DeJoy to "ensure timely and accurate delivery of election-related materials."
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.
Congress is not in session but Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling the House back to Washington over the crisis at the Postal Service, setting up a political showdown amid growing concerns that the Trump White House is trying to undermine the agency ahead of the election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.