Written by Frank Lockwood
Published by Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Arkansas congressmen opposed legislation Saturday that would prevent U.S. Postal Service officials from taking steps to “reduce … or impede prompt, reliable and efficient” mail delivery service.
The measure included $25 billion in funding for the agency, which has been a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump.
The Democratic-backed bill passed 257-150, with support from 26 Republicans. Twenty-three Republicans didn’t vote.
The four House members from Arkansas, all Republicans, portrayed the legislation as unnecessary.
“Obviously it’s a political stunt,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro.
The post office is capable of delivering the millions of ballots that will be cast by mail this year, he said.
“There are roughly 471 million pieces of mail per day handled by the U.S. Postal Service,” he said. Mail-in voting would take place over a 30-day period and would likely lead to about a 1% surge per day, he said.
If the post office can handle Mother’s Day and Christmas holiday deliveries, it can handle Election Day, Crawford said.
“I just think this is another attempt [by Democrats] to try to create an anti-Trump narrative. I just don’t think they have a whole lot of faith in their own ability to win an election without using extraneous means like this type of propaganda,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs also called the legislation unnecessary.
“It’s just a political ploy by the Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] that has nothing to do with the election. I think it’s all made up,” he said. “The post office has plenty of money. They have the capacity to handle the ballots for the election. So this is an opportunity the speaker saw to poke at the president.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers portrayed Saturday’s proceedings as an unmerited attack on Trump.
“The chairman of the Rules Committee called this a five-alarm fire. Now that the Democrat convention has concluded, and the Republican convention is about to begin, we have a catastrophe,” he said.
Womack portrayed it as yet another attempt by Democrats “to derail a duly elected president.”
“About the only outcome this debate is going to have today is one of entertainment value. Nothing substantive,” he said.
Once Womack had finished, the Rules Committee chairman, U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., provided a rebuttal.
“I’m sad that the gentleman thinks that this is entertaining. We have veterans who are calling our offices whose medications have been delayed getting to them. We have some people on Social Security and on SSI who are worried that their checks are not going to get to them. We have small businesses that are calling to complain. This is a crisis that this administration produced all on its own,” he said.
U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock portrayed recent testimony by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy as persuasive.
DeJoy discussed “the changes that he’s made and the preparation he has for handling ballots. That convinced me that he had all the personnel that he needed to do that, he had all the equipment he needed to do it,” Hill said.
The post office also has the financial resources it needs, Hill said.
“We gave him $10 billion in March that he hasn’t spent. He has a $10 billion line of credit at the Treasury, plus he has $14-plus billion dollars on his balance sheet,” Hill said.
“If there’s not a money issue, and there’s not a policy issue, I don’t know why we came back to Washington to vote today,” he said.
Hill’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock, said she would have supported the legislation, based on the information she has seen.
“The USPS is an essential institution of our democracy, so it must be supported to work for all of us, including seniors and veterans who depend on delivery of medications and small businesses who depend on the USPS for essential deliveries, for example,” she said in a text message.
Celeste Williams of Bella Vista, Womack’s Democratic opponent, also said she would have supported the legislation.
“Certainly the post office has been made into a mail-in voting issue but really is a needed service and is mandated by the Constitution, as well,” she said. “Lots of seniors, veterans … lots of normal folks get their prescription medications through mail pharmacies.”