Speaker Nancy Pelosi is recalling the House early from its summer recess in a bid to protect the US Postal Service from efforts to block funding and suppress mail-in voting in November’s election.
Pelosi said the House would return later this week to vote on a bill prohibiting the USPS from changing its operations or service levels from what it had in place at the start of 2020. Previously, the House had not been scheduled to vote until 15 September.
She said late on Sunday that Donald Trump was trying to sabotage the election by manipulating the postal service, and called Postmaster General Louis DeJoy “a complicit crony” by bringing in changes that degrades the service and delayed mail.
“Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American democracy are under threat from the president,” she said, calling for a day of action on Tuesday. “In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is election central. Americans should not have to choose between their health and their vote.”
Her comments echoed those of Bernie Sanders, who told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting and his administration’s efforts to block funds for the US post office amounted to “a crisis for American democracy” ahead of the November presidential election.
“What you are witnessing is a president of the United States who is doing everything he can to suppress the vote, make it harder for people to engage in mail-in balloting at a time when people will be putting their lives on the line by having to go out to a polling station and vote,” he said.
An unprecedented number of Americans are expected to vote by mail this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the past few months, states across the US have seen record numbers of Americans request ballots and submit votes by mail in primary and other elections.
However, there is concern over whether the USPS, which is already facing a severe financial crisis, will be able get ballots to voters and return them to election offices in time to have them counted.
Congressional Democrats announced on Sunday that DeJoy and Robert Duncan, the chair of the postal service’s board of governors, had been invited to a 24 August hearing of the House oversight committee. The hearing will investigate the recent removal of mailboxes and shutting down of sorting machines nationwide.
DeJoy has strongly denied any political interference, and Trump said in a press briefing on Saturday that DeJoy is, in fact, trying to “make the post office great again”.
But last week, Trump openly admitted he was blocking $25bn in proposed aid to the post office because he wanted to make it harder to vote by mail.
Reuters contributed to this report