Aug. 18--SCRANTON -- Senator Bob Casey appeared at a United States Postal Service facility in Scranton today -- a facility which has had three of its large-scale sorting machines removed in recent months -- and called changes at the post office a threat to our very democracy.
Case, D-Scranton, was scheduled to appear at the post office to members of the media just before noon on Monday morning in reference to recent changes at the USPS that have led to massive mail delays and concerns about an upcoming election that will likely be dominated by mail-in ballots due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While members of the media were waiting for Casey, at least one postal customer asked them, "It's still open, right?" seeming to acknowledge the widespread concerns over the post office's safety.
Casey told reporters that his office was contacted by 15,000 concerned citizens in the past few days alone.
"Right now, we're hearing all across Pennsylvania about delays in the mail," Casey said. "We've been hearing about it for a good while now, but if anything, those concerns have been increasing."
Casey characterized these delays as inexcusable.
"There is no excuse for not getting people the mail that they need, whether it's for a prescription, or for business documents," Casey explained.
The USPS's Board of Governors recently proposed that it needs an additional $25 billion in funding in order, partially, to handle the influx of letters the postal service will be dealing with in coming months due to mail-in ballots.
Casey said these funds need to be secured, saying that it is necessary for the fulfillment of democracy.
"We have to make sure that, if the Postal Service needs $25 billion more, which is what the Board of Governors have told us, I wish the Postmaster General, Mr. DeJoy, would advocate on behalf of getting them that funding," Casey said.
Louis DeJoy, an ally and donor of President Donald Trump's, was installed earlier this year as Postmaster General amid concerns about apparent conflicts of interest on his behalf.
Casey suggested DeJoy's policies in the post office were boldly political.
"What we don't need is folks like Mr. DeJoy and anyone that works with him in the top brass messing with the post office, messing with mail delivery, questioning whether or not mail ballots will get to people," Casey went on.
"We need to make sure that our government fulfills its obligation," Casey said -- an obligation spelled out in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution mandating the creation of a postal service. "If you need more resources, you come to Congress, and you tell the President, 'Sign the bill that Congress should pass.'
"This is what some might call a 'five alarm fire' for democracy," Casey said, saying that Trump is "playing games" with the post office.
"In fact, if anything, the President made it very clear, after lying to the American people for weeks now about mail-in balloting, now he's telling the American people plain and simple: 'I don't want people to vote by mail because I might not win my re-election,'" Casey said.
The senator was referring to comments from Trump last week, in which the President openly tied his disapproval of the $25 billion needed by the post office to the increased push for mail-in ballots. Trump's comments came last week in an interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo.
"They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said. "If they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because they're not equipped to have it."
Casey was joined by Kevin Gallagher, Vice President of the Pennsylvania Postal Workers Union, who said he has seen some shocking changes since DeJoy took office as Postmaster General that have led to some major delays in local mail delivery, including the removal of three sorting machines from the Stafford Avenue facility, that are each capable of sorting between 35,000 and 45,000 letters per day.
"The effect of these operational changes is delaying mail and taking service out of the word 'postal service,'" Gallagher said.
Gallagher said that mail is often delayed for days at a time, thanks to DeJoy's implementation of hard limits for when the service is able to deliver mail.
"Priority mail that used to be two day, three day delivery is now taking five days, eight days, 10 days, sometimes even longer," Gallagher said.
Gallagher said that the three sorting machines removed from the sorting facility have been there since at least 2000 and have been owned by the USPS outright, so removing them does not effectively save any money. But Gallagher and Casey said there has been little to no good answer from DeJoy as to why the machines are being removed.
Casey said he is calling on Congress to re-appropriate the funds necessary for the USPS to operate.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan
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