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Postal Service's election role becomes flashpoint in stimulus talks

Ryan Teague Beckwith and Daniel Flatley, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats want to throw a financial lifeline to the struggling U.S. Postal Service amid concerns that mail delays could lead to hundreds of thousands of legitimate votes being thrown out, potentially skewing the election. Senate Republicans say the money isn't needed.

Stimulus legislation the House passed in May includes a $25 billion grant for the Postal Service, which has seen a downturn in bulk mail during the Covid-19 pandemic. The smaller aid proposal floated by Senate Republicans has no new USPS funding, with GOP lawmakers saying an earlier loan program is sufficient.

The money has become one of several sticking points in negotiations between top congressional Democrats and representatives of President Donald Trump, a longtime skeptic of the Postal Service's management.

Democrats have focused their ire on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor appointed by Trump in May, who has implemented new rules that they believe are slowing mail delivery.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he demanded that DeJoy reverse cuts in overtime and staffing during what he called a "heated discussion" on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

"He had some answers," Schumer said. "I don't think we found them adequate."

 

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Democrats were looking for a "fall guy" for vote-by-mail problems such as the long delays in reporting results from New York's June primary.

"It's not a post office problem," Meadows said. "It's an election problem, with the secretary of states in each state."

At stake are votes in 34 states -- including nearly all of the presidential battlegrounds -- that won't count mail-in ballots unless they are received on or before Election Day, regardless of when the voter sent them.

Voting rights groups have expressed concern that delays in service amid a surge in voting by mail could lead to ballots being thrown out. That's already happened in primaries held during the pandemic, even in states without stringent requirements.

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