HELENA — As the U.S. Postal Service faces another funding crisis, Montana’s congressional delegation is united in its condemnation of moves by President Trump’s new postmaster general to delay mail service.
The delegation’s two Republicans – U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte – wrote letters to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy last week, demanding he reverse new policies that will delay mail delivery.
And Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester had even stronger words, saying DeJoy wants to “destroy” the Postal Service.
“He’s doing everything he can to destroy it,” Tester told MTN News. “We’ve got to hold that person accountable and we’ve got to make sure the Postal Service is there.”
Tester and Daines are co-sponsors of a bill to create a $25 billion emergency fund to help the Postal Service weather the coronavirus pandemic and require DeJoy to present a plan for the service’s long-term financial solvency.
Tester also said that funding for the Postal Service should be included in the next Covid-19 relief bill – if Congress can agree on one.
A $2.4 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in April had funding for up to $10 billion in loans to the Postal Service, but the Trump administration has not released that money.
Meanwhile, Trump appointed DeJoy as the new postmaster general in May. DeJoy is a Republican fundraiser and has holdings in companies that compete with the Postal Service.
In the past month, he reshuffled top leadership at the Postal Service and ordered changes that will delay mail service, such as banning overtime and leaving mail behind at distribution centers if it might delay carriers on their routes.
Gianforte’s letter, sent to DeJoy last Thursday, said delaying mail service is “unacceptable.”
“Montanans depend on reliable access to mail to receive prescription drugs, online purchases and financial documents,” he said. “Any delays in receiving mail would disproportionately impact rural Americans. Do not continue down this road.”
Daines also told MTN News that he’s concerned about the Postal Service’s future and has asked that it receive money in any upcoming Covid-19 relief bill.
Tester said a robust Postal Service is especially important if more and more Americans end up voting by mail, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock gave counties in Montana the power to choose to use all-mail ballots for the general election.
“Vote-by-mail is kind of nice in a state like Montana, and we had a record turnout in the primary because of it,” Tester said. “I believe that this democracy is set up so that everyone who is a citizen here should have an opportunity to vote.”
Tester also said he suspects that moves to undercut the Postal Service is part of the Trump administration’s attack on mail voting, in an effort to make it harder for people to vote this November.
“This whole thing about `voter fraud’ and all that is a fraud, in and of itself,” he said. “Vote by mail has worked in the past, it will work going forward.”