Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are urging Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to reverse policies that have delayed mail deliveries and will make it harder for Americans to vote in November. President Trump, meanwhile, said Thursday that he wants to prevent an expansion of mail-in voting by blocking funds for the postal service contained in a coronavirus relief package.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, signed a letter from the Senate Democratic caucus to DeJoy on Wednesday, and Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, sent her own letter Thursday. U.S. Rep.  Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st Congressional District, signed a letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and 173 other House Democrats to DeJoy on Wednesday. Maine’s other member of Congress, Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, did not sign the House letter, but released a statement opposing efforts to undermine the postal service.

The letter signed by King and Senate Democrats demanded that DeJoy ensure the timely delivery of election-related mail, including ballots filled out by voters who choose not to vote in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It comes as mail delays have been reported nationwide, including in Maine, which many blame on operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service instituted by DeJoy, a major donor to Trump and other Republicans.

DeJoy, in an effort to cut costs, has banned overtime and late deliveries, all of which, USPS employees say, has led to delays and a decline in the quality of service.

“As Postmaster General, you have a duty to our democracy to ensure the timely delivery of election mail,” the Senate Democrats’ letter states. “Millions of Americans’ right to vote depends on your ability to get the job done.”

Senators highlighted the fact that absentee ballots are typically sent as Nonprofit Marketing Mail, which is cheaper than First Class mail but usually has a delivery standard of 3-10 days, as opposed to 2-5 days. They noted that despite paying the cheaper rate, the USPS has typically treated ballots as First Class mail and delivered them within 1-3 days. The letter says the postal service has indicated to some election officials that it will not honor that practice in November.

The letter ended with demands that DeJoy release a plan by Aug. 25 detailing how the USPS will handle the volume of election mail, as well as answers to questions regarding the speed with which ballots will be delivered.

Sen. Susan Collins took a different tone in the letter she sent Thursday. She did not address issues surrounding the election, but called on DeJoy to reconsider the changes at the USPS that have led to the decline in service.

“While I support efforts to improve the USPS’s financial condition, I am concerned that the reported changes will have the opposite effect, reducing service to the public and driving away customers, leading to further declines in volume and ultimately worsening the crisis facing the Postal Service,” Collins wrote.

Collins has introduced the bipartisan Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act to provide up to $25 billion in assistance to the USPS, and said during a public appearance in Maine on Thursday that she continues to support the funding .

President Trump said Thursday he opposes the funding, as well as a second proposal, because he doesn’t want the postal service equipped to handle expanded mail-in voting in November.

“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 during an interview on Fox Business Network. “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.”

Trump has criticized mail-in voting as fraudulent, but hasn’t provided evidence to support the claim or explained why the same would not be true about traditional absentee voting. Critics say he wants to suppress turnout and raise doubts about the validity of the outcome.

The latest coronavirus relief bill, nicknamed the HEROES Act, passed the house on May 15 but has yet to pass the Senate. Trump told the Fox Business Network that the $25 billion included in the bill for postal service funding is one of the reasons.

Asked about Trump’s comments on not funding the postal service because he wants to deter mail-in voting in November, Collins said she strongly disagreed with the president. She did not specifically address the impact of mail-in voting, but instead talked about the postal service in broader terms.

“I do disagree with the president on the need to support the postal service. I’ve worked on postal service issues for a very long time and (Sen.) Dianne Feinstein and I have introduced a bill to provide $25 billion in support for the postal service,” Collins said Thursday after speaking at a business in Auburn. “The postal service has projected that it will not be able to meet payroll by the first quarter of next year. That’s incredibly serious.”

Collins, however, has been criticized for her support years ago of a financial mandate that many see as a source of the postal service’s current financial woes.

Collins sponsored the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that introduced a mandate that the postal service set aside funds for its retiree health benefits. Now, many congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle are pushing to overturn that mandate.

“This requirement is the number one cause of USPS’s financial enduring problems,” Pingree said in a statement Thursday. “190 days ago, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed a bill repealing the 2006 law – with 87 Republicans voting in support of repeal. The McConnell Senate has been blocking H.R. 2382 for 190 straight days.”

Rep. Golden also has supported overturning the 2006 mandate.

“People and small businesses in rural communities like the ones I represent depend on the postal service for medications, materials and supplies, and much more,” Golden said in a written statement. “That’s why I’ve consistently stood up for the postal service and its workers and will continue to oppose efforts to undermine service standards.”

King, too, called for the repeal of the mandate, and hoped his Aug. 6 letter to Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the ranking member on the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs would prompt movement on the issue in the Senate. He also shared a tweet Thursday calling on Congress to push back against Trump’s attempts to inhibit voting and hobble the USPS financially.

Collins responded to criticism of her role in the mandate with a written statement Thursday saying the change was seen at the time as a solution to a long-term financial challenge facing the postal service.

“Since 2006, however, the postal service had to contend with a recession and the significant diversion of mail onto the internet as well as a host of other factors,”  Collins said in the written statement. “In 2012, the Senate passed a bill I authored that would have replaced the 10-year pre-funding with a new schedule that would have stretched out payments over 40 years. This approach would have given the postal service the time and breathing room it needs to cover the cost of keeping the health care promises made to its workers.”

Collins said she continues to support giving the postal service more flexibility, as well as supporting a $25 billion infusion to help offset COVID-19 related losses and expenses.

Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this story. 

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