Dem lawmakers accuse Postal Service of illegally blocking visits

The congress members from New Jersey pinned the incidents on US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the Trump administration

After weeks of warnings about Postal Service delivery issues during the presidential election, which is more dependent on mail-in ballots than ever before, Congressional Democrats are complaining they were illegally blocked from oversight visits to mail facilities.

While the total number of lawmakers who were barred is still unclear, at least five have recounted such incidents to reporters, including New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell. 

"The Post Office under Louis DeJoy is spinning preposterous lies to block congressional oversight of what’s happening," Pascrell wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening. DeJoy, a former GOP fundraiser, was hired earlier this year by the postal service's board of governors, all of whom were appointed by President Trump.

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"USPS wouldn't let @Malinowski and I inspect a postal facility, lying it was prohibited by the Hatch Act," Pascrell tweeted on Wednesday, referring to Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski.

In a joint press release sent out on Monday with Rep. Albio Sires, the New Jersey lawmakers blasted the Postal Service, saying its refusal to let them inspect the Dominic V. Daniels Processing and Distribution Center in Kearney was "completely illegal" and political "arson."

"I visited this same facility weeks before the 2018 midterms, and now they’re making up phony excuses to keep us out," Pascrell said. "It has all the markings of Louis DeJoy, who should be hauled before a criminal grand jury for what he’s done. 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."

Malinowski concurred. “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,” he said. “For months we have been blocked from doing our job to ensure that the USPS is ready for this election."

At the end of September, Pascrell and other members of the New Jersey congressional delegation penned a letter to the postmaster general demanding an emergency visit to the Daniels Center as the state prepares for a vote-by-mail election

Pascrell and Malinowski didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from Fox News.

In October, Postal Service employees in New Jersey and Florida were charged with dumping or blocking the delivery of mail-in ballots, according to The Washington Times.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is sworn in before testifying during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Aug. 24.  (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is sworn in before testifying during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Aug. 24.  (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP, File)

And DeJoy, a former financier, has come under increased scrutiny since he was appointed to the position in the spring. 

In the months following the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Postal Service altered regulations and ordered the confiscation of hundreds of mail-processing machines, though DeJoy said he has since ordered workers not to remove any more until after the election.

Responding to the allegations from Pascrell, Malinowski and Sires, the USPS told The Wall Street Journal that its headquarters staff had set up over 60 congressional tours during the first nine months of the year and that the agency has an “ongoing commitment to transparency and oversight."

“The Postal Service has been, and will continue to be, responsive to the Congress’s legislative needs in providing information on postal matters, while also protecting our legitimate institutional prerogatives,” the statement read.

In a vicious election cycle with less than two weeks left until Nov. 3, The Journal reported that Republicans remain skeptical of Democrats' claims.

Kentucky's Rep. James Comer, a ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in an August hearing that his Democratic counterparts were fearmongering as a “political stunt” to hurt his party

However, the New Jersey Democrats were not the only ones who reported having trouble gaining access to plants. 

Both Florida's Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and California's Rep. Jared Huffman said they had tried to visit mail facilities, but were impeded by procedures not previously in place.

Schultz said she was told she was required to take a special training course before she was allowed in, and Huffman said the Eureka, Calif., post office refused him due to the Hatch Act despite previous tours and meetings at the same location.

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In 2018, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said federal buildings shouldn’t be used for campaign events. But the Hatch Act, the agency said, doesn't prevent lawmakers visiting federal facilities for "an official purpose, to include receiving briefings, tours, or other official information.”