- On Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he was suspending recent operational changes for the U.S. Postal Service until after the 2020 election.
- The announcement came amid mounting criticism that he was sabotaging the agency’s ability to handle elections by removing mail-sorting machines from facilities, among other changes.
- DeJoy’s announcement did not address the replacement of sorting machines that have already been removed from distribution centers, a decision which — in part — is believed to have caused recent delays in mail delivery.
- Despite DeJoy’s announcement, top federal Democrats and at least 21 states are continuing to push legislation and legal challenges that aim to prevent the USPS, by law, from making operational changes until after the election.
DeJoy Suspends His Previously-Implemented Plans
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy confirmed on Tuesday that the U.S. Postal Service will suspend its plan to decommission mail-sorting machines until after the election.
Dejoy’s announcement follows mounting criticism that his plan to dismantle nearly 700 sorting machines, outlined in internal documents obtained by multiple news outlets, could threaten large scale mail-in voting efforts during the 2020 elections.
Dejoy also said he would suspend a number of other operational changes he has pushed since taking over the USPS in June. This means the USPS will no longer alter retail hours at post offices, will not close mail processing facilities, will leave blue collection boxes in place, and will approve overtime as needed.
In the announcement, DeJoy said he wants “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”
He also said he would expand the Post Office’s leadership task force, which will oversee the delivery and handling of election mail.
“Effective Oct. 1, we will engage standby resources in all areas of our operations, including transportation, to satisfy any unforeseen demand,” DeJoy said.
DeJoy’s comments come after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday that between then and the election, the USPS won’t dismantle any sorting machines.
Postal Union Leaders and Top Democrats Still Concerned
Like Meadows, Dejoy’s statement did not clarify whether the USPS will replace sorting machines that had already been decommissioned.
Because of that, CNN reported that at least a dozen local Postal Union leaders have still expressed concern.
According to one local president, Roscoe Woods, a dozen machines at a distribution center in Pontiac, Michigan, have been removed in recent weeks. Despite DeJoy’s announcement, Woods said postal management denied that those machines will be put back in service.
Woods added that some of the machines in that facility are still in the process of being taken apart and that two disassembled machines are even currently still on-sight in a trailer.
“They have no plans to put them back together,” Woods said.
Another local union president in North Carolina, Miriam Bell, told CNN she doesn’t know if dismantled sorting machines will be brought back, but added, “it is highly unlikely they will be put back in place.”
Top-level Democrats have also expressed similar concerns.
Even though DeJoy has pledged to suspend changes until after the election, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-nY.) said Tuesday during a press conference, “We’re going to make sure in law that that is the case.”
Hoyer stressed that DeJoy “must reverse any adverse consequences of the actions that have been taken to date.”
On Twitter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) reiterated Hoyer’s call to lock USPS policy change suspensions into law.
“Nice try, Postmaster General DeJoy,” she said, “but the House will still be passing our bill to ensure the delivery of the mail through the election.”
Sunday night, Pelosi announced the House would return from its August recess early to hold a vote that would address the current situation with the USPS. That vote, which is scheduled for Saturday, will seek to revoke policy changes at the USPS until the end of the year, or possibly, even until the end of the pandemic.
Notably, the bill being voted on by the House also includes a provision to give $25 billion in funding to the USPS. While Democrats pushed for this funding in a now-stalled coronavirus relief package, President Donald Trump has said he doesn’t want to give that funding to the USPS.
On Monday, it was reported that attorneys general for at least six states were preparing to file lawsuits against the USPS and DeJoy. By the following day, that number had surged to 21 states — all set to file lawsuits this week regarding election threats, as well as recent delays in mail delivery because of changes within USPS facilities.
All of the current state attorneys general planning to issue lawsuits against the USPS are Democrats; however, analysts have said that is likely some Republican attorneys general could announce lawsuits, as well.
On Tuesday, Washington state launched its lawsuit against the USPS, accusing the agency of breaking the law by making operational changes without first seeking approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission. It also argued that the agency’s recent changes will hamper states from being able to hold fair elections.
The same day, Trump’s re-election campaign sued the state of New Jersey in a bid to overturn a recent executive order by Governor Phil Murphy. The Trump campaign described that order, which will allow New Jersey to automatically send mail-in ballots to all of the state’s 6.2 million registered voters, as a “brazen power grab.”
What Happens Next?
On Friday, DeJoy is set to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He’s also agreed to appear in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday.
Even if the House passes its USPS bill on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he will likely not support the bill, as it stands, in the Senate.
“I don’t think we’ll pass, in the Senate, a postal-only bill,” McConnell told The Courier Journal Tuesday.
While some Senate Republicans have condemned recent USPS changes and expressed willingness to approve more funding for the agency, it’s likely that such funding may only be able to be passed as part of a larger deal.
Trump, for his part, has said he’ll continue to block funding until Democrats offer a concession for Republicans on the next coronavirus relief package. On Monday, McConnell said that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has indicated the president is prepared to grant the USPS $10 billion ahead of the elections, a noticeably smaller amount than what Democrats are seeking.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The Courier Journal)
Republican Congressman Proposes Bill to Ban Anyone Under 16 From Social Media
The proposal comes amid a growing push for social media companies to be stringently regulated for child and adolescent use.
The Social Media Child Protection Act
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Ut.) introduced legislation Thursday that would ban all Americans under the age of 16 from accessing social media.
The proposal, dubbed the Social Media Child Protection Act, would require social media companies to verify users’ ages and give parents and states the ability to bring legal actions against those platforms if they fail, according to a press release.
The legislation would also mandate that social media platforms implement “reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information collected from users and perspective users.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would be given the authority to enforce these regulations and implement fines for violations.
Stewart has argued that the move is necessary to protect children from the negative mental health impacts of social media.
“There has never been a generation this depressed, anxious, and suicidal – it’s our responsibility to protect them from the root cause: social media,” he said in a statement announcing the bill.
“We have countless protections for our children in the physical world – we require car seats and seat belts; we have fences around pools; we have a minimum drinking age of 21; and we have a minimum driving age of 16,” the Congressman continued.
“The damage to Generation Z from social media is undeniable – so why are there no protections in the digital world?”
While Stewart’s arguments are nothing new in the ongoing battle around children and regulating social media, his legislation has been described as one of the most severe proposals on this front.
The plan would represent a huge shift in verification systems that critics have long said fall short. Many social media sites like TikTok and Twitter technically ban users under 13 from joining, but there is no formal verification process or mechanisms for enforcement. Companies often just ask users to provide their birthdays, so those under 13 could easily just lie.
Backlash and Support
Stewart — who spent the weeks before the rollout of his bill discussing the matter with the media — has already gotten pushback from many who say the idea is too extreme and a bad approach.
Carl Szabo, the vice president and general counsel of the social media trade group NetChoice, told The Washington Post that such a decision should be left to parents.
“Rather than doomsaying or trying to get between parents and their families, the government should provide tools and education on how best to use this new technology, not demonize it,” he said.
Others have also argued that the move could cut off access to powerful and positive online resources for kids.
“For many kids, especially LGBTQ young people who may have unsupportive parents or live in a conservative area, the internet and social media are a lifeline,” Evan Greer, the director of the advocacy group Fight for the Future, told The Post. “We need better solutions than just cutting kids off from online community and educational resources.”
Lawmakers have also echoed that point, including Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Ca.), who represents Silicon Valley. However, there also seems to be support for this measure. At least one Democratic Congressmember has told reporters they are open to the idea, and Stewart says he thinks the proposal will have broad bipartisan backing.
“This is bipartisan… There’s Democratic leaders who are actually maneuvering to be the lead co-sponsor on this,” he told KSL News Radio, adding that President Joe Biden recently wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal that referenced similar ideas.
A Growing Movement
Stewart is just one among the growing number of lawmakers and federal officials who have voiced support for keeping kids and younger teens off social media altogether.
In an interview with CNN Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy expressed concern regarding “the right age for a child to start using social media.”
“I worry that right now, if you look at the guidelines from the platforms, that age 13 is when kids are technically allowed to use social media,” he said. “But there are two concerns I have about that. One is: I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early.”
Murthy went on to say that adolescents at that age are developing their identity and sense of self, arguing that social media can be a “skewed and often distorted environment,” adding that he is also worried about the fact that the rules around age are “inconsistently implemented.”
His comments gained widespread backing. At least one Senator posted a tweet agreeing, and an FTC Commissioner also shared the remarks on the platform. Stewart, for his part, explicitly cited Murthy’s remarks in the press release announcing his bill.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (KSL News Radio) (CNN)
Feds Investigate Classified Files Found in Biden’s Former Office
The documents reportedly include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom
What Was in the Files?
President Biden’s legal team discovered about 10 classified files in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington D.C., the White House revealed Monday.
The Department of Justice has concluded an initial inquiry into the matter and will determine whether to open a criminal investigation.
According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, they include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
A source also told CBS News the batch did not contain nuclear secrets and had been contained in a folder in a box with other unclassified papers.
The documents are reportedly from Biden’s time as vice president, but it remains unclear what level of classification they are and how they ended up in his office.
Biden kept an office in the. Penn Biden Center, a think tank about a mile from the White House, between 2017 and 2020, when he was elected president.
On Nov. 2, his lawyers claim, they discovered the documents as they were clearing out the space to vacate it.
They immediately notified the National Archives, which retrieved the files the next morning, according to the White House.
What Happens Next?
Attorney General Merrick Garland must decide whether to open a criminal investigation into Biden’s alleged mishandling of the documents. To that end, he appointed John Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump appointee, to conduct an initial inquiry.
Garland reportedly picked him for the role despite him being in a different jurisdiction to avoid appearing partial.
Lausch has reportedly finished the initial part of his inquiry and provided a preliminary report to Garland.
If a criminal investigation is opened, Garland will likely appoint an independent special counsel to lead it.
The case mirrors a similar DoJ special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified materials and obstruction of efforts to properly retrieve them.
On Nov. 18, Garland appointed Jack Smith to investigate over 300 classified documents found at Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump resisted multiple National Archives requests for the documents for months leading up to the FBI’s raid on his property, then handed over 15 boxes of files only for even more to be found still at Mar-a-Lago.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many houses of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters he will investigate the Biden files.
Republicans have been quick to pounce on the news and compare it to Trump’s classified files, but Democrats have pointed out differences in the small number of documents and Biden’s willingness to cooperate with the National Archives.
The White House has yet to explain why, if the files were first discovered six days before the midterm elections, the White House waited two months to reveal the news to the public.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (BBC)
Lawmakers Propose Bill to Protect Fertility Treatments Amid Post-Roe Threats
The move comes as a number of states are considering anti-abortion bills that could threaten or ban fertility treatments by redefining embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for IVF.
The Right To Build Families Act of 2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would codify the right to use assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments into federal law.
The legislation, dubbed the Right To Build Families Act of 2022, was brought forward by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Il) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) alongside Rep. Susan Wild (D- Pa.). The measure would bar any limits on seeking or receiving IVF treatments and prohibit regulations on a person’s ability to retain their “reproductive genetic materials.”
The bill would also protect physicians who provide these reproductive services and allow the Justice Department to take civil action against any states that try to limit access to fertility treatments.
The lawmakers argue it is necessary to protect IVF because a number of states have been discussing and proposing legislation that could jeopardize or even ban access to the treatments in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal.
“IVF advocates in this country today are publicly telling us, ‘We need this kind of legislation to be able to protect this,’” Murray told HuffPost. “And here we are after the Dobbs decision where states are enacting laws and we have [anti-abortion] advocates who are now starting to talk, especially behind closed doors, about stopping the right for women and men to have IVF procedures done.”
Fertility Treatments Under Treat
The state-level efforts in question are being proposed by Republican lawmakers who wish to further limit abortions by redefining when life begins. Some of the proposals would define embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for those that are created through IVF, where an egg is fertilized by a sperm outside the body and then implanted in a uterus.
For example, a bill has already been pre-filed in Virginia for the 2023 legislative session that explicitly says life begins at fertilization and does not have any specific language that exempts embryos made through IVF.
Experts say these kinds of laws are concerning for a number of reasons. In the IVF process, it is typical to fertilize multiple eggs, but some are discarded. If a person becomes pregnant and does not want to keep the rest of their eggs. It is also normal that not all fertilized eggs will be viable, so physicians will get rid of those.
Sometimes doctors will also implant multiple fertilized eggs to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, but that can result in multiple eggs being fertilized. In order to prevent having multiple babies at once and improve the chance of a healthy pregnancy, people can get a fetal reduction and lower the number of fetuses.
All of those actions could become illegal under proposals that do not provide exemptions.
“In my case, I had five fertilized eggs, and we discarded three because they were not viable. That is now potentially manslaughter in some of these states,” said Duckworth, who had both of her daughters using IVF.
“I also have a fertilized egg that’s frozen. My husband and I haven’t decided what we will do with it, but the head of the Texas Right to Life organization that wrote the bounty law for Texas has come out and specifically said he’s going after IVF next, and he wants control of the embryos,” Duckworth added.
In a hearing after Roe was overturned, Murray also raised concerns about “whether parents and providers could be punished if an embryo doesn’t survive being thawed for implantation, or for disposing unused embryos.”
Experts have said that even if anti-abortion laws defining when life begins do provide exceptions, it would be contradictory and confusing, so providers would likely err on the side of caution and not provide services out of fear of prosecution.
“[Abortion bans] are forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and are, at the very same time, threatening Americans’ ability to build a family through services like IVF,” Murray said in a statement to Axios. “It’s hard to comprehend, and it’s just plain wrong.”
The federal legislation to combat these efforts faces an uphill battle. It is unlikely it will be passed in the last few days of lame duck session, and with control of Congress being handed to Republicans come January, movement in the lower chamber will be hard fought.
Duckworth, however, told Axios that she will keep introducing the legislation “until we can get it passed.”