Apparently, I and the rest of the House of Representatives are being called back to Washington for a series of votes this Saturday. Has Speaker Pelosi finally reached an agreement with President Trump and Senator McConnell on the next phase of coronavirus legislation? No, her intransigence killed those negotiations and President Trump was left having to take unilateral action in executive orders issued last week. Has she reached an agreement on funding the government for the next fiscal year which starts in six weeks? No, there are no talks happening there either.
The House will meet this Saturday on legislation dealing with the U.S. Postal Service. The “Postal Service?” you may ask, and well you should. We are in the middle of a pandemic, our economy is recovering but still needs help, people are running out of money, and the government will close on October 1 if we don’t have an agreed bill to fund it. So, instead of dealing with these real issues, the Democrats made up a phony one.
Unlike many things the federal government does, providing a postal service is expressly authorized by the Constitution and we have had one since 1775 when Benjamin Franklin was our first Postmaster General. I remember as a child knowing our postman and the excitement of a box or catalog in the mail. I have known postal employees over my life and appreciate their service to our country. Their mission provides postal services to all Americans no matter where they live, and that’s important.
But the Postal Service has lost $78 billion since 2007, mostly because its volume has been reduced as so many of us use e-mail and private delivery services like UPS, Amazon and FedEx. In response, the Obama Administration removed 14,000 mailboxes and tried to eliminate Saturday service. Unfortunately, it just kept losing money.
President Trump has tried to bring the Postal Service’s business model into line with the reality of modern American postal usage. He recently appointed a businessman with a significant logistics background, Louis DeJoy, to be the new Postmaster General. DeJoy is trying to restructure a massive government agency with over 600,000 employees and contractors and which ran a deficit of nearly $9 billion last year. This year it will lose another $11 billion and the Treasury Department recently loaned it $10 billion to get it through this year and next, so it has the money it needs to operate as it reforms itself.
So, why is there such an urgent need for Postal Service legislation? There isn’t. Indeed, before last week hardly anyone in Congress was paying attention to the Postal Service because of the other huge and unresolved issues before us. I had received no constituent contact about it. The legislation we will take up this Saturday would block any reforms to the Postal Service and provide it with an additional $25 billion. It’s unclear if that’s on top of the loan and/or on top of the $25 billion the Democrats voted to give the Postal Service in legislation passed earlier this year. We do know that the White House has already agreed to an extra $10 billion as part of the coronavirus talks Pelosi stalled.
Pelosi claims Social Security checks may not be delivered, which is ridiculous because beneficiaries get their monthly payments electronically now. Democrats also complain that the Postal Service won’t deliver mail-in ballots on time, which is also ridiculous because it has already told the states what they need to do to assure that won’t happen. They also claim mail sorting machines are being removed from Post Offices, but that turns out not to be true either.
There have been no Congressional hearings on the reforms the bill seeks to block. The bill hasn’t been marked up in committee, either. This matter wasn’t even a topic of Congressional conversations this time last week. Democrats have worked with no Republicans on the bill and have no agreement on it with the Senate or the White House which means it won’t become law, and they know that.
The real reason the Democrats have created this hoax is that they look bad for failing to negotiate in good faith on the coronavirus bill and left Washington for a month. President Trump was getting credit for his executive orders while they did nothing. Nothing. So, in time-honored fashion, they decided to change the subject and their allies in the news media have been happy to play along.
The crisis here is a crisis of leadership at the Postal Service which desperately needs to reform itself, exactly what DeJoy is trying to accomplish. There is also a crisis of leadership in the House, a self-inflicted crisis. I don’t mind going back to Washington to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass another coronavirus bill. But going back this Saturday to work on a bill which will go nowhere and which addresses a hoax the Democrats themselves created is crazy. But crazy is what we have in Washington now. And that’s no hoax.
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.