As a rule, once members of Congress leave town for their August break, they don't return until after Labor Day. As Democrats made clear yesterday, there are exceptions.
Democratic leaders said Sunday that they are scheduling an emergency hearing this month for top officials of the U.S. Postal Service to testify before Congress after the agency sounded the alarm about its ability to handle increased mail-in voting.... The hearing, Democrats said, "will examine the sweeping operational and organizational changes at the Postal Service that experts warn could degrade delivery standards, slow the mail and potentially impair the rights of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming November elections."
That same joint statement, issued by the Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate, added, "The president has explicitly stated his intention to manipulate the Postal Service to deny eligible voters access to the ballot in pursuit of his own re-election. Alarmingly, the Postmaster General -- a Trump mega-donor -- has acted as an accomplice in the president's campaign to cheat in the election, as he launches sweeping new operational changes that degrade delivery standards and delay the mail.... This constitutes a grave threat to the integrity of the election and to our very democracy."
As things stand, the House Oversight Committee will hold its hearing on Aug. 24, which is a week from today. The Democratic-led panel expects Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Michael Duncan to be there. Whether they'll participate, however, is not yet clear.
And while the hearing suggests congressional Dems are taking Team Trump's apparent sabotage of the USPS seriously, it's hardly the element of the Democratic pushback.
Late last week, party leaders from both chambers sent DeJoy a 10-page letter, demanding materials related to the administration deliberately undermining the nation's mail system. Those documents are due to Capitol Hill by Friday, Aug. 21.
What's more, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on her members to participate in a "Day of Action " at local post offices in their districts tomorrow, before returning to Capitol Hill this week to vote on the "Delivering for America Act." The new legislation would block the USPS from implementing any changes to mail operations or level of service, locking in place Postal Service standards that existed on Jan. 1, 2020.
As the Republican-led Senate, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) late yesterday issued a statement, calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to "bring the Senate back into session to quickly act on the House's legislation that will undo the extensive damage Mr. DeJoy has done at the Postal Service so that people can get their paychecks, medicines, and other necessities delivered on time, and to ensure our elections will remain completely free and fair." (McConnell hasn't replied.)
Schumer went on to call for Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the committee that has oversight authority over such matters, to pry himself away from chasing conspiracy theories and hold a hearing on deliberate postal delays.
All of which is to say, Democrats are putting the U.S. Postal Service up front and center right now, even as their national nominating convention gets underway.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the picture is far less clear. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, now back from vacation, sat down with CNN's Jake Tapper yesterday, and initially suggested USPS sorting machines are not going offline, a claim that was plainly at odds with reality. According to the CNN transcript, Meadows then said, "That's something that my Democrat [sic] friends are trying to do to stoke fear out there," which didn't make sense.
As the interview progressed, Meadows suggested Barack Obama was somehow to blame for the mess -- it wasn't altogether clear why -- before concluding that sorting machines were being removed from USPS facilities as part of "a normal system of changing it out."
The fact that the White House chief seemed to change his story multiple times over the course of a few minutes did not inspire confidence.
His boss has been even less coherent. Donald Trump insisted over the weekend, while spending time at one of the private golf clubs he still profits from, "As you know, the Democrats aren't approving the proper funding for Postal." It wasn't at all clear what in the world he was rambling about.
A day earlier, the president added that he was prepared to provide the Postal Service with the resources it needs, but only if Democrats "give us what we want."
The Republican didn't literally say, "I'd like you to do us a favor, though," but his phrasing nevertheless gave the impression that he was prepared to both undermine the USPS and hold it hostage in exchange for his unrelated demands being met.
As political tactics go, Trump may not realize the extent to which he's playing with fire. Americans may joke at times about post offices, but families, communities, and businesses nationwide rely on timely mail service for, among other things, their health care and their finances. No American president has ever tried to undermine this constitutionally protected service for any reason -- least of all to weaponize the postal service in the hopes of derailing voters' ability to cast ballots.
As recently as April -- before Trump and DeJoy started messing with the USPS in earnest -- the Pew Research Center found that 91% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the Postal Service, making it, in quantifiable terms, the single most popular institution in the United States.
And yet, there's the president and his partisan mega-donor, taking aim at Americans' mail service with fewer than 80 days remaining before Election Day -- for the express purpose, according to Trump himself, of making it harder for Americans to participate in their own democracy.
Is it any wonder Democrats suddenly want to talk about little else?