(CBS News)–The House of Representatives on Saturday approved an additional $25 billion in funding for the U.S. Postal Service and the reversal of recent operational changes that critics say delayed mail delivery. At a press conference ahead of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called the rare Saturday session, called the Postal Service “as American as apple pie, motherhood, baseball.”
The bill, titled the “Delivering for America Act,” also ensures the Postal Service would not be able to implement any operational changes until January 2021, after the November election.
“Don’t pay any attention to what the president is saying, because it is all designed to suppress the vote,” Pelosi said at the press conference. President Trump tweeted during the hearing that the controversy surrounding the Postal Service is “another HOAX” from Democrats and urged Republicans to “VOTE NO.” The White House has threatened to veto the bill.
More than two dozen Republicans crossed the aisle and voted for the bill’s passage.
Meanwhile, Congressman Dan Meuser, a Republican from Pennsylvania, missed Saturday’s vote after testing positive for COVID-19. He said he would submit for the record that he would have voted against it.
The bill now heads to the Republican-led Senate. Following its passage in the house, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement accusing House Democrats of “ignoring the urgent needs of American workers and families.”
“The facts show the USPS is equipped to handle this election, and if a real need arises, Congress will meet it,” McConnell added.
The House passed a massive $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill in May that 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. The committee released internal Postal Service documents on Saturday which reveal a steep drop in mail processing.
The bill’s 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 Mr. 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.
Speaking to reporters while visiting the Capitol on Saturday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that “it’s important that we support everybody’s right to vote.”
“I think if we put guardrails on and make sure that we’re not closing down polling places — and if you have mail in absentee ballots, if you have vote by mail as part of your normal process — certainly the president supports,” Meadows said.