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Rep. Bill Pascrell.

Dem congressmen again demand inspection of Kearny USPS facility

‘This isn’t Area 51,’ Pascrell says

By Nikita Biryukov, October 19 2020 12:46 pm

This story was updated with comment from USPS Spokesman George Flood at 4:53 p.m.

Three North Jersey congressmen attacked U.S. Postal Service officials for again refusing to allow them to inspect a mail processing and distribution center in Kearny Monday.

“This isn’t Area 51 — our congressional delegation must have access to see if USPS can handle the millions of ballots being cast this election,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) said. “And New Jerseyans have a right to know if their votes are secure. This isn’t politics: It’s about protecting our democracy from Trump and DeJoy’s arson.”

For months, Democrats have raised alarms over policy changes at the Postal Service enacted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor.

Under DeJoy, USPS has seen operational changes that spawned massive backlogs and delivery delays that sometimes lasted for weeks.

Pascrell and other New jersey House Democrats have sought to tour Kearny’s Dominick V. Daniels Processing and Distribution Center for months, but Postal Service officials have turned them away, citing concerns that such visits — as well as other post-office-related events — could make USPS employees vulnerable to Hatch Act violations.

“Worthy of note, the same prohibition does not apply to congressional staff,” USPS Spokesman George Flood said. “We are happy to engage with any members directly to address the concerns they have in lieu of a tour during this 45 day period and routinely hold field level congressional briefings with congressional staff. An online ZOOM briefing session was held by Northern New Jersey postal officials for members and their staffs on September 17.

But that isn’t enough for the Democratic congressman.

“The independent Office of the Special Counsel made it very clear that Members of Congress should not be impeded from visiting federal facilities to conduct congressionally mandated oversight,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) said. “For months we have been blocked from doing our job to ensure that the USPS is ready for this election. Today’s continued refusal is unacceptable, and Postmaster General DeJoy must be held accountable for his repeated attempts to disrupt mail-in-voting.”

The Office of the Special Counsel in 2018 issued guidance that said USPS should not seek to stop elected officials from visiting federal facilities on official business, like congressional oversight.

DeJoy’s retooling of the Postal Service comes as states, including New Jersey, send out millions of mail-in ballots ahead of a hugely consequential presidential election.

Democrats fear the operational shifts are a bid to spike mail-in voting, which Trump attempted to undercut for months and which Democrats use at far higher rates than their Republican counterparts.

“Ahead of the November election, when a record number of ballots are set to be sent by mail, it is crucial we ensure the integrity and ability of the postal service to faithfully and securely transfer these ballots,” Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York) said. “Our congressional delegation should be granted access to the facility so we can be certain that the ballots of New Jerseyan’s are being processed correctly.”

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