USPS Trucks
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Senator showers praise on the Trump mega-donor who says hundreds of sorting machines won’t come back.

Taking time out from using his Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to make election year attacks against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson opened a committee hearing Friday morning with a political attack against Democrats who are calling attention to the dismantling—both figurative and literal—of the United States Postal Service.

In introducing embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump and Republican Party mega-donor with reported financial interest in USPS competitors, Johnson said any disruptions of mail — from packages to election ballots to the deaths of thousands of newly-hatched chicks — is all a partisan hoax.

“I have no doubt the Democrats are ginning these issues up into a false narrative designed to extract a political advantage,” Johnson told DeJoy. “And I’m sorry that you’re the target of those.”

DeJoy acknowledged the removal and destruction of a reported 671 sorting machines across the country, including many in Wisconsin and other electoral battleground states,  and said they will not be returned or replaced.

“There’s no intention to do that,” he said to Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. “They’re not needed, sir.”

DeJoy said the operational changes he put on hold until the November election will still go forward afterward.

Because of President Trump’s explicit threat to withhold USPS funding in order to sabotage mailed absentee ballots, DeJoy promised the committee that the Postal Service would process election mail as first-class mail and not subject it to the slower timetable of bulk and marketing mail, as documents obtained by CNN had indicated.

Building on that point, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., reminded DeJoy that he had written last week the Postal Service would “utilize additional resources and maximize our efforts during the 10 days prior to the election to ensure the processing and delivery of all election mail within our system.” She asked if he had produced a plan explaining what exactly resources and efforts are being put in place.

“We’re just putting these committees together. I’ll have to check and get back to you,” he responded.

Johnson praised what he said was DeJoy’s “commendable attempt to reduce excess costs. They’re now cynically being used to create this false political narrative.”

According to Pew Research, the Postal Service between 2007 and March 31 of this year has incurred cumulative losses of $83.1 billion, in large part because a Republican-led Congress in 2006 required decades worth of pre-payment of retiree health funds, unlike anything seen in other business models.

Johnson attempted to put the blame for service delays and employee availability on the coronavirus outbreak. That, he said, plus the nature of new business initiatives, were responsible for what he called “highly scripted” pushback to DeJoy’s initiatives.

“Operational changes are designed for long-term improvement, but they’ve created some disruptions as well,” Johnson said. “But I’m highly supportive of the efforts.”

As reported by NBC News’ Heidi Przybyla, however, USPS service delays and reduced availability of employees coincides more with DeJoy’s summer appointment than with the arrival of the outbreak in early spring.

DeJoy will face more intense questioning Monday when he sits before the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee.