U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal gathered a coalition of postal workers and health care advocates outside a post office in downtown Hartford Tuesday to warn that disruptions to the U.S. Postal Service could threaten the November election.
Lawmakers and others are speaking out against newly installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who engineered a number of cuts and operational changes since his appointment in June. DeJoy is a Trump ally and a major Republican donor.
“The president of the United States and his postmaster general have embarked on a campaign of relentless, purposeful sabotage,” Blumenthal said. “They are trying to sabotage mail delivery to discourage voting by mail and undermine our democracy.”
Trump has denied he is trying to slow-walk the mail, and on Tuesday DeJoy was forced respond to the public outcry fueled by voters and postal workers. He announced he will suspend cuts in service, reinstating overtime, and halting the removal of sorting machines and mailboxes. He has indicated those cuts may proceed again after the November election.
DeJoy is now scheduled to appear before both Senate and House committees in coming days.
Vince Mase is president of Branch 19 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, which covers New Haven County. He said Trump’s rhetoric and actions around the postal service and universal mail-in balloting undercut the ability of postal workers to deliver the mail.
“If the American public, if they’re afraid to go to the polling places because of this pandemic, then let us do universal mailing. Let the postal service do its job. Let the employees do their job,” Mase said. “We are not here to delay or postpone first-class mail or first-class packages.”
Last week, Trump said he opposed a Democratic proposal to send $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service, including $3.5 billion for mail-in voting. Trump said if that money isn’t approved, mail-in voting won’t work.
“We want to have an accurate vote. I’m not doing this for any reason. Maybe the other turns out to be my advantage. I don’t know. I can’t tell you that. But I do know this, I just want an accurate vote,” Trump told reporters.
Trump appeared to soften that stance Friday, telling reporters he’d sign off on the Democratic postal proposal if the party meets other Republican demands on coronavirus relief.
Carol Tillman Parrish, with the North Central Area Agency on Aging, said delays to mail service are having impacts that go beyond debates over voting in Washington, D.C.
“The U.S. Postal Service is a lifeline for a lot of seniors,” Parrish said. “They rely on the mail to get their Social Security, their medicine, to pay their bills … I’m just so frustrated with what is going on. The main thing is, we need the postal service.”
DeJoy will appear Friday before the Senate to testify about mail delivery disruptions.
Meanwhile, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said on Tuesday that Connecticut would join a multistate federal lawsuit challenging Trump’s cuts to the postal service.
“The states’ lawsuit, led by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, will assert that the Postal Service implemented these drastic changes to mail service nationwide unlawfully, and seeks to immediately halt the agency’s actions,” a spokesperson for Tong said in a statement.
According to Tong’s office, Washington and Connecticut are joined in the lawsuit by Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
This story contains information from the Associated Press. It has been updated to reflect the Postmaster General's announcement of the suspension of cuts.