Republican Sen. Ron Johnson announced Tuesday that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy—a major donor to the GOP—will testify at a virtual Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Friday, just days ahead of DeJoy’s scheduled appearance before the Democrat-controlled House Oversight Committee.
The timing of the planned Senate hearing—and Johnson’s stated reasons for inviting DeJoy to testify—immediately sparked concerns that the GOP is attempting preempt the House panel’s questioning and put its own spin on the postmaster general’s disruptive and possibly illegal changes to the U.S. Postal Service’s operations ahead of the November elections.
“Republicans scheduled the hearing with DeJoy before his appearance on Monday at the House hearing clearly to try to control the narrative and say all of his changes were reasonable and in good faith.”
—Vanita Gupta, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, warned in a tweet Tuesday that “Senate Republicans scheduled the hearing with DeJoy before his appearance on Monday at the House hearing clearly to try to control the narrative and say all of his changes were reasonable and in good faith.”
Under immense pressure from the public and members of Congress to reverse his new policies, DeJoy said in a statement Tuesday that he is “suspending” changes to USPS operations until after the November elections—an announcement that appeared to raise more questions than it answered.
Democratic members of Congress made clear following DeJoy’s statement that they still have every intention of questioning his changes during the House Oversight Committee hearing next week.
“Sunshine in the form of public pressure has forced Mr. DeJoy to completely reverse himself. But he cannot put the genie back in the bottle,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). “While this is a victory for all voters and every American that relies on the USPS, congressional oversight cannot be interrupted.”
“If Mr. DeJoy has nothing to hide,” Connolly added, “he will come to Congress with answers to our questions about the service disruptions that have defined his tenure as postmaster general. Accountability is the cornerstone of our democracy.”
Sunshine in the form of public pressure has forced Mr. DeJoy to completely reverse himself. But he cannot put the genie back in the bottle.
While this is a victory for all voters and every American that relies on the USPS, congressional oversight cannot be interrupted. https://t.co/RXrJunqYw0
— Rep. Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) August 18, 2020
Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, told Politico that he scheduled the Senate hearing with DeJoy because he “wanted to give the [postmaster general] an opportunity to tell his side of the story before he appeared before a hostile House committee.”
In a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson echoed that sentiment, declaring that the “Postal Service has had significant financial problems for years, and it is important for everyone to fully understand its current fiscal challenges.”
Johnson did not mention the 2006 mandate signed into law by former President George W. Bush requiring USPS to prefund its retirees’ health benefits through 2056—a requirement that no other federal agency is forced to meet.
“The postmaster general should have an opportunity to describe those realities before going before a hostile House committee determined to conduct a show trial,” Johnson said.
As the Washington Post reported, the Senate hearing Friday “will be DeJoy’s first opportunity to publicly answer lawmakers’ questions about the nation’s embattled mail service, which is experiencing delays as a result of policies DeJoy implemented cutting overtime and eliminating extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery.”
Johnson, according to the Post, “is expected to press DeJoy on whether the Postal Service truly needs the $25 billion in emergency funding that the House has pushed.”
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, vowed in a statement Tuesday to press for “answers on Mr. DeJoy’s recent directives and their impacts on all Americans, who rely on the Postal Service for prescriptions, running their small businesses, voting, and other crucial purposes.”
Senate Republicans have largely been quiet about DeJoy’s sweeping changes to Postal Service operations even as they caused major mail backlogs across the U.S., slowing the delivery of prescription medicines and threatening the timely arrival of mail-in ballots.
As Salon‘s Roger Sollenberger reported Tuesday, DeJoy—a former logistics executive who was previously in charge of fundraising for the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte—”has given tens of thousands of dollars to Republican senators up for re-election this November.”
“FEC records also show that DeJoy regularly maxed out with tens of thousands of annual contributions to the official GOP committees dedicated to electing Republican lawmakers: the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee,” Sollenberger wrote.