- 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)
Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium
The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.
Eviction Freeze Set To Expire
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.
The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.
While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.
In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress.
“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Delays in Relief Distribution
The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.
Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.
A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires.
The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape.
Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.
According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 — including New York — had not spent any funds at all.
Slim Chances in Congress
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.
However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.
While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.
Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.
“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”
With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)
Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks
The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.
Pelosi Vetoes Republicans
Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.
In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”
Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden.
A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.
The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.
In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”
Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.
McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation
McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.
In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.”
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel.
“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.