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A Fake Emergency

August 24, 2020
Weekly Columns

In recent weeks, concerns surrounding operations of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) have frequented the news cycle and been shared widely across social media. However, I want to caution you not to believe everything you hear or read on the subject, as there is a lot of deceiving and misleading information swirling around. 

First, both Republicans and Democrats agree that having an efficient and effective postal service is vital to all Americans. Indeed, it is of critical importance to those living in rural America, which includes many areas in the Fourth District of Oklahoma. In fact, it’s worth noting that last Congress, former Congressman Mark Meadows and the late Congressman Elijah Cummings wrote and introduced bipartisan legislation with reforms and solutions to ensure the success and survival of USPS as an institution.

Second, while data over several years indicates that USPS faces real long-term challenges absent serious reforms, those challenges are not of the pandemic’s making nor were they created or exacerbated by this administration. In fact, USPS has lost nearly $80 billion since 2007, including a loss of nearly $9 billion during fiscal year 2019. 

Third, though there are long-term challenges that must be addressed sooner rather than later, USPS is far from falling off any sort of cliff in the near-term – and certainly not before or during the upcoming nationwide election. In fact, according to USPS, it has enough cash on hand to maintain operations through August 2021. Moreover, USPS currently has $10 billion of untouched borrowing authority, which was provided by Congress and signed into law as part of the bipartisan CARES Act back in March of this year. It’s also worth mentioning that USPS has stated it has no plans to utilize this line of credit until next year – again, well past the November election.

Despite their knowledge and understanding of these facts, Democrats recently chose to perpetuate the lies that there’s an “emergency,” creating and worsening fears that USPS is on the verge of collapse and incapable of handling the demands of election-related mail and ballots. Neither concern is valid. In fact, USPS recently revealed that it delivers more than 433 million pieces of mail per day. Put in perspective, assuming every single registered American voter – approximately 158 million people –  chose to vote by mail, the total mail volume for both requested and returned ballots would still not exceed a typical day’s work for USPS.

Nevertheless, Speaker Pelosi called members of the U.S. House of Representatives back to Washington over the weekend to bring up a relief measure for this fake emergency – or, as the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board described the situation, “a made-for-TV phony political crisis.” The two main provisions of the Democrats’ so-called Delivering for America Act are clearly misguided. Along with providing USPS with $25 billion of funding it doesn’t immediately need, the legislation would block implementation of any reforms to USPS operations undergone or planned since the beginning of this year. It would also prohibit USPS from implementing any further changes either until January 1, 2021, or after the coronavirus public health emergency ends – whichever is later.

Unfortunately, the failures with the legislation extend beyond what’s in it to the backward and closed process by which it was brought up for a floor vote. In fact, House Democrats violated their own rule requiring that legislation considered on the House floor first undergo a hearing and be reported by the committee of jurisdiction. Though the House went ahead and voted on the bill over the weekend, the required hearing occurred on Monday of this week – after the fact, two days later. That is a far cry from the “regular order” Democrats promised at the start of this Congress.  

Certainly, there are necessary, bipartisan reforms that Congress can and should provide to ensure USPS is on a sustainable path for the future. But rather than calling the House back to waste time on fake emergency legislation going nowhere in the Senate and never making it to the president’s desk, Speaker Pelosi should try bringing up measures negotiated in good faith across the aisle that have gone through the proper process ahead of any floor vote. Not to mention, amid the coronavirus crisis, there are plenty of other areas of actual urgency that demand Congress’ attention. We should deal with those more pressing matters immediately.