Trump Rejects Postal Aid in Any Relief Plan, Alleging Vote FraudAugust 13, 2020
President Donald Trump drew a hard line against a Democratic plan for shoring up theU.S. Postal Service, escalating his attempts to hinder mail-in voting in the November election.
Trump claims without evidence that mailing ballots would increase fraud, and his stance throws a new obstacle in front of any effort to strike a deal for a new round of coronavirus relief.
“They want $25 billion dollars for the post office because the post office is going to have to go to town to get these great ridiculous ballots in,” Trump said Thursday in an interview on Fox Business Network. The $3.5 billion they want to pay for mail-in ballots is “for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent,” he added, even though there is no evidence that voting by mail opens the door to widespread fraud.
Democrats have pressed for the funding to ensure capacity to process an increased share of postal ballots given the dangers of the spread of Covid-19. The largely self-funded USPS has suffered financial problems for years due to declining first-class mail volume and a requirement to pre-fund future retirement health benefits for workers. A drop in bulk mail due to the pandemic has worsened the balance sheet despite an increase in package deliveries.
Trump pointed to disputes over the drawn-out New York primary election as evidence of the risks tied to expanded mail-in voting as a reason to withhold funding.
The president is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in every recent poll, with the economic downturn and continued spread of the coronavirus weighing on his re-election effort. He has repeatedly claimed the November election results could be tainted by fraud.
As Democrats gained an advantage in mail-in ballot requests in some battleground states heading into the election, Trump has shifted to arguing that absentee voting is good, especially in Florida, while mail-in voting is not. There is no difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting, however, as the Trump campaign itself admitted in a legal filing in Pennsylvania.
Biden has argued that Trump is trying to “indirectly steal” the election with his criticism, calling for every American to be allowed to vote by mail if they want. That will already be the case in November for more than three fourths of Americans who live in states that either automatically mail every voter a ballot, allow no-excuse absentee voting or are accepting coronavirus as an excuse to vote absentee.
Talks on a relief plan are already at a standstill with the two sides are at least $1 trillion apart on another stimulus for the U.S. economy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called Pelosi on Wednesday to revive negotiations that stopped on Friday, however his overture was rebuffed by Pelosi as empty. Democrats insist that only when Republicans increase their roughly $1 trillion offer to about $2 trillion will talks resume.
The Postal Service issue had appeared to be one of the more likely to be resolved before Trump drew his hard line this week.
Behind closed doors last week, Democrats said they could accept $10 billion in aid for the U.S. Postal Service in one year instead of the $25 billion over three years that was in the legislation passed by the House in May, according to a person familiar with their offer.
Pelosi said Thursday that the White House had previously indicated it could agree to $10 billion.
”There is a reason to believe that they were willing to go to $10 billion,” Pelosi said Thursday on MSNBC. “But the president did exactly what he did in previous Covid bills – stood in the way; but this is in the context of not understanding the gravity of the situation.”
The USPS is highly popular and the speaker and other Democrats have seized on Trump’s comments on the Postal Service and well as cost-cutting actions taken by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, which they say have caused mail delivery delays.
“Motherhood, apple pie and the Postal Service. An all-American institution,” Pelosi said at a later news conference, alleging Trump wants to harm the post office to hinder mail-in-voting.
“The president is afraid of the American people,” she said. “He wants to put obstacles to participation.”
— With assistance by Billy House
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