(CBS News)– The House is expected to vote Saturday on legislation that would provide an additional $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service and reverse recent operational changes that critics say delayed mail delivery. The bill, titled the “Delivering for America Act,” would also ensure the Postal Service would not be able to implement any operational changes until January 2021, after the November election.
The rare Saturday session highlights the importance of the agency during the coronavirus pandemic and ahead of November’s presidential vote.
The House passed a massive $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill in May which would have provided $25 billion for the Postal Service. However, Senate Republicans have refused to consider the legislation, and congressional Democrats and White House officials have not reached a deal on a relief bill.
While Democrats have raised alarms about changes, such as eliminating most overtime and ending extra deliveries, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said changes will not affect the delivery of election mail. He said in a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday that his “number one priority” is to ensure election mail is received on time.
“As we head into the election season, I want to assure this committee, and the American public, that the Postal Service is fully capable of delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time,” DeJoy said.
He also expressed support for mail-in voting, telling senators, “I think the American public should be able to vote by mail, and the Postal Service will support it.”
However, DeJoy did not commit to sharing a plan on how the Postal Service will handle an influx of mail-in ballots ahead of the November election. He also said he would not restore mailboxes and sorting machines that have been removed, saying it was protocol to cut these services.
DeJoy is expected to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Monday, where he will likely face grilling from Democratic members.
Although the bill is likely to pass in the Democratic House, its future is uncertain in the Republican-controlled Senate. Some congressional Republicans have accused Democrats of ginning up a crisis for their own electoral benefit. The Democratic convention last week included several segments condemning the recent slow in mail delivery.
Democrats say they are concerned that President Trump is deliberately trying to curtail mail delivery to making casting absentee ballots more difficult. The president said earlier this month he was opposed to extra funding for the Postal Service because it would make voting by mail easier. He then reversed course, telling reporters that he would sign a bill that provided an extra $25 billion for the Postal Service.
Mr. Trump has flip-flopped on voting by mail, promoting baseless claims that casting absentee ballots leads to widespread voter fraud. However, he has encouraged voting by mail in states such as Florida, which is a critical swing state in the November election.