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‘Get used to me’: Defiant Postmaster General Louis DeJoy pushes back at lawmakers at tense hearing on mail delays

  • February 25, 2021

stirred outrage shortly after he was named postmaster general in May 2020 by ordering the removal of mail-sorting machines in postal facilities, cutting overtime for mail carriers and making other controversial changes.

While Democrats questioned him at the hearing of the House Oversight Committee, DeJoy remained defiant, telling Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., that he would oversee the Postal Service for “a long time. Get used to me.”

Lawmakers have expressed alarm over slow deliveries of prescription medicines and other items for veterans, seniors and other Americans who rely on the mail service as a lifeline.

2020 elections and ongoing deliveries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Postal Service has struggled with financial problems as shipping rates have declined and the service’s obligations to fund health benefits for its retired workers burdened its balance sheets. As a semi-private entity, the service mostly funds itself through shipping fees; it is not taxpayer-funded but remains under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

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DeJoy promised to put the Postal Service on a more sound financial footing while ensuring performance. But he said that the service has had “persistent problems” and that the “erosion has been going on for years.”

DeJoy acknowledged that during 2020’s holiday season, the service  “fell far short of meeting our service targets,” calling operations during 2020’s peak season a “failure.”

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Other Democrats asked DeJoy about delays and potential downsizing plans in their districts.

“What are you not willing to change just to make a buck?,” Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., pointedly asked DeJoy about his proposed changes for the service.

“I’m just asking you to do your job,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said after a heated exchange over mail sorting machines removed from Detroit post offices.

“How is there common sense behind changing an organization in the middle of a pandemic?” Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., asked DeJoy, criticizing several early policies the postmaster general implemented last summer. 

“That is a lack of management,” she said, adding “you haven’t shown leadership and now you’d like to rip (the service) apart.” DeJoy said the characterization “wasn’t accurate” and that the service’s problems are “multidimensional.”

DeJoy pushed back on the criticism.

“No, I won’t commit to that,” DeJoy told Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., when asked if he would commit to expanding sorting machines and enacting greater local control of post offices.

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“You can sit here and think that I’ve brought all this damage to the Postal Service, but the place was operationally faulty long before I took office,” he said at another point, defending the service’s plans and outlining what he said were efforts to make the agency more efficient.

“The Postal Service exists in a nation where the pandemic is present also,” DeJoy reminded lawmakers in discussing its limited performance in 2020.

DeJoy repeatedly defended his plans for the Postal Service.

“We’re not out to profit, we’re out to break even. That’s all this is about,” he said, contending that legislation, “operational improvements” and potential price increases are necessary next steps for the Postal Service.

Other witnesses offered alternatives.

“They need to deal with the chronic understaffing … they should look at expanding services … there’s all sorts of things that can be done to make the Postal Service more relevant in people’s lives,” Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said. He urged Congress to pass legislation to aid financial and operational reform.

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Republicans on the committee were quick to air grievances about the Postal Service’s finances and accused Democrats of unfairly targeting DeJoy.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking Republican on the Oversight Committee, argued that Democrats had levied “wild and unfounded conspiracies” about DeJoy’s changes.  “Real reforms, tough decisions” are necessary to reform the Postal Service, Rep. Fred Keller, R-Pa., argued at another point.

Before the Nov. 3 election, Democrats had expressed concern about the effect of the Postal Service changes on delivery of mail ballots. The pandemic led to a big increase in mail voting last year.

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., lambasted Democrats on the committee for raising the alarm about potential efforts to “sabotage the election” by DeJoy. “This did nothing but put fear in the American people, put distrust in the American people,” Hice said.

“It was all a charade,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, declared of Democratic anxieties over the Postal Service. “It was all about politics. It was all about the election.” DeJoy, when pressed by Jordan, replied that it was “a very sensitive time in then nation,” declining to assign any blame.

At one point, DeJoy had a heated exchange with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who asked the postmaster general to commit to preserving “two-day shipping locally”, referencing a Washington Post report that found DeJoy was considering eliminating a tier of first-class mail.

The hearing comes as many Democrats are urging President Joe Biden to fill three vacancies on the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, effectively its board of directors. More than 80 House Democrats sent a letter to the Biden in which they emphasized their concerns about DeJoy’s leadership of the agency.

“We do not doubt that the Postal Service requires some thoughtful reforms in order to continue to provide excellent service to the American people in the years to come; however, there is a plethora of evidence that Postmaster General DeJoy is not equipped to meet the rigors of these challenges,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Filling the vacant seats on the Postal Service’s Board of Governors with strong, passionate advocates for the institution will allow it to function in a nonpartisan manner,” the group said.

The board has not been fully seated since 2012.

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