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Democrats block coronavirus relief, police legislation after Pelosi calls House back for postal service bill

Thomas Catenacci on August 22, 2020

Democrats blocked bills regarding coronavirus relief Saturday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the chamber back to debate and vote on U.S. Postal Service legislation.

Pelosi brought the House back into session from recess to vote on a bill that would block the Trump administration from making additional changes to the Postal Service. Republicans took the opportunity, however, to introduce three bills addressing coronavirus vaccine funding, amending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and increasing funding to police departments nationwide.

“We could come together and provide our country with some of the critical resources necessary to fight this novel coronavirus,” Rep. Michael Burgess said. “Unfortunately, the House democratic leadership does not acknowledge or seem to even be curious as to whether or not they’re up to the task.”

The Texas Republican introduced a bill that would provide resources for the ongoing development of a coronavirus vaccine and for the subsequent distribution of the vaccine. The federal government formed Operation Warp Speed, a partnership between several health agencies and private pharmaceutical companies devoted to producing a vaccine by 2021, as the virus quickly spread in March.

“House Democratic leadership has turned their backs on the needs of America,” Burgess said on the House floor.

Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot sponsored a bill that would make businesses that received a PPP loan eligible to receive a second disbursement. The original PPP program, which was included in the March Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, expired on Aug. 8.

Rep. Pete Stauber introduced legislation that would provide funding to police departments that would go towards training and body cameras. Police departments have faced scrutiny after the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

“We are back in Washington for less than 12 hours,” the Minnesota Republican said on the House floor. “It is embarrassing that while we could be working on vaccine funding, saving small businesses, and justice reform, the speaker will us out and Americans will once again be wondering ‘where are our leaders?’”

The Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, have faced scrutiny after the agency began implementing internal changes, including changes to overtime policy and the removal of letter sorting machines. Those decisions have been criticized as attempts to slow mail in the run up to the upcoming presidential election, which is expected to have a record number of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am calling upon the House to return to session later this week to vote on Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Maloney’s ‘Delivering for America Act,’ which prohibits the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or level of service it had in place on January 1, 2020,” Pelosi said in a Aug. 16 statement.

The Postal Service suspended further policy changes Tuesday, DeJoy announced.

“Retail hours at Post Offices will not change,” DeJoy said. “Mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are. No mail processing facilities will be closed. And we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.”

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