The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to fund the US Postal Service, amid ongoing complaints by Democrats that the Trump administration is attempting to sabotage the delivery of mail-in ballots ahead of the presidential election in November.
The Democratic bill, which passed on Saturday despite opposition from Republicans, would provide $25bn in aid for the USPS and prioritize election mail as “first class”, to ensure ballots arrive in time to be counted in an election in which the coronavirus pandemic will cast a shadow over in-person voting.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, said the bill was necessary to “reject the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the critical mission of the postal service”.
On the floor of the House, James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the oversight committee, said the Democrats’ bill was the “result of a legislative process only slightly less absurd than the conspiracies, insinuations, and fabrications that gave rise to the purported need for it”.
The bill is unlikely to progress further, with the Republican-held Senate unwilling to pass it. After Saturday’s vote Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that the Senate would “absolutely not pass” the stand-alone bill.
The White House has also signalled it would veto the bill, with Republicans claiming the postal service has plenty of cash on hand and is being used by Democrats for political purposes.
Democrats have accused Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Donald Trump who is now postmaster general, of implementing cost-cutting measures meant to slow the mail, with the intention of aiding Trump in the election.
Trump has falsely claimed there is widespread fraud in mail-in ballots, stating that “nobody knows what’s happening with the ballots and the lost ballots and the fraudulent ballots”.
Experts have pointed out there is no evidence to support these claims and Trump himself has voted via the mail multiple times himself.
On Friday, DeJoy conceded that mail delivery had slowed down but refused to reinstate hundreds of mail sorting machines that have been removed, ostensibly because of a decline in deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.
He has, however, reversed a plan to remove hundreds more of the machines ahead of the election.
On Saturday the Democratic chair of the House oversight committee, Carolyn B Maloney of New York, released internal USPS documents from a briefing to DeJoy on 12 August.
Maloney said DeJoy had been warned of “steep declines and increasing delays nationwide over the last two months as a result of his drastic operational and organizational changes”.
In a statement, Maloney said: “To those who still claim there are ‘no delays’ and that these reports are just ‘conspiracy theories’, I hope this new data causes them to re-think their position and support our urgent legislation today.
“We have all seen the headlines from every corner of our country, we have read the stories and seen pictures, we have heard directly from our constituents, and these new documents show that the delays are far worse than we were told.”
Later on Saturday, after playing golf, Trump weighed in again on Twitter with a rambling complaint including more claims regarding voter fraud.
“This is all another HOAX by the Democrats,” the president wrote, “to give 25 Billion unneeded dollars for political purposes, without talking about the Universal Mail-In Ballot Scam … Only ABSENTEE BALLOTS are acceptable!”
As has been pointed out repeatedly, mail-in ballots and absentee ballots are the same thing. Trump is opposed to the practice of proactively sending ballots to voters, which many states are pursuing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Originally published: 2020-08-22 19:29:51