Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford and Rep. Tom Cole participated in separate hearings on the U.S. Postal Service on Friday, with both rejecting the idea recent changes have caused mail delays.
Ahead of a morning Senate committee hearing with U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Lankford told NPR he had not heard many complaints of mail delays in the wake of cost-cutting measures like removing sorting machines and slashing overtime.
In the hearing itself, Lankford went easy on DeJoy, asking him questions about a now-thoroughly debunked photo of locked mailboxes that went viral and whether mail boxes were being removed since DeJoy announced a halt to any changes.
"Were you locking up the boxes in Burbank to keep people from voting?" Lankford said.
DeJoy said he was not.
"Some of the blue boxes being retired, are they still going to be retired between now and the election? Or will they be retired in the future?" Lankford said.
DeJoy said he is delaying any operational changes.
Lankford also asked whether old sorting machines will be removed in the future.
"Are we still going to work on trying to build in efficiencies in the post office? This has been an issue for a long time to try to get us back into balance," Lankford said.
In response to that question, DeJoy said the postal service will have a 245-billion dollar shortfall over the next decade. That could lead to a slew of changes like raising package rates and requiring first-class postage on ballots.
While all eyes were on DeJoy's testimony, the House Rules Committee was also holding a hearing that could affect the postal service. They debated the Delivering for America Act, which would give the postal service $25 billion in emergency funding, undo any changes to operations made since Jan. 1 and prohibit new changes until at least next year.
Cole said while mail service is crucial for his largely rural district, he does not believe reports recent steps by the postmaster general could delay ballots.
"And there is no immediate emergency here in terms of funds. Over $15 billion available immediately to the post office, 75 days from the election. And there’s also a $10 billion line of credit," Cole said.
A House vote on the bill is expected Saturday, though the bill is not expected to pass the Senate.