Neal Visits Pittsfield As Democrats Attempt To Bolster Post Office
Democratic Congressman Richard Neal of the 1st House district visited Pittsfield, Massachusetts as part of a party-wide effort to emphasize the importance of the post office Tuesday.
Neal made the trip as Democrats around the country prepare to reconvene in Washington this weekend to vote on measures they say will protect the post office from the Trump administration.
“So I want to call attention to the fact that ballot access in a representative democracy is fundamental," he said. "And some of the proposed changes that the postal service has proposed in recent days seem to me as though they hint strongly at voter suppression.”
The 16-term congressman said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposal to counter service cuts to the economically beleaguered agency is taking form.
“I think that one of the things that we’re doing is we’ve offered in the HEROES Act up to $25 billion for postal service work," said Neal. "And that’s all-encompassing. We would also, I think, try to postpone some of the rearrangements and restructuring that the Postmaster General has attempted to suggest. In addition, as you know, one of the challenges that you have with the postal service, obviously, is the way retirement benefits are calculated. So we think that there’s an opportunity here for a full throttled effort on Saturday morning. I think at the moment the Speaker has proposed that we’re going to vote at just about 11 o’clock, so I intend to head back on Friday for those votes.”
In 2006, the Republican-led Congress passed The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which required the United States Postal Service to create an over $70 billion fund to pay for post-retirement health care costs 75 years into the future – a requirement unique to the agency. As of the end of 2018, the postal service was over $140 billion in debt.
The same day as Neal’s visit, Postmaster General and Republican Party fundraiser Louis DeJoy announced that those proposed cuts would be postponed until after the November 3rd election.
At least 20 Democratic attorneys general – including Maura Healey of Massachusetts – announced plans to sue the Trump administration over the move.
Neal said protecting mail-in voting is essential during the pandemic.
“It’s now estimated that more than 40% of the voters in America may decide to cast their ballots through the mail," said the congressman. "The president has cast his ballots through the mail in the past. His family has cast their ballots through the mail in the past. There are Republican states and Democratic states that have embraced mail-in voting, and it has occurred without even a small hitch. It’s an accepted part now, I think, of extending the franchise.”
Neal said the power to let funding flow into the postal service through the HEROES Act is in the hands of President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“It’s unreasonable going into a national election, when you consider how close the last presidential election really was – and not to dismiss what happened in the year 2000," he said. "So I think encouraging people to vote by mail – again, extending the franchise – is really important for all of us.”
Neal said the language of the House Democrats’ postal service bill would likely become clear by Friday, and that all mail-in ballots postdated September 1st should be counted in the coming primary.
Neal is running against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse in the Democratic primary.