HARTFORD, Conn. — During a day of nationwide protests, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called Saturday for the resignation of the U.S. Postmaster General because of recent slowdowns in mail delivery and fears about the potential effect on the presidential election.

Blumenthal and more than 75 others gathered at a rally in downtown Hartford to decry the cutbacks in postal operations by U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to President  Trump who has held the job for less than three months. Blumenthal and a coalition of activists are highly concerned about delays in absentee ballots for the November presidential election that is expected to be a close contest in many states between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

“We need someone who will protect and preserve the postal service, not dismantle or degrade it so Donald Trump can privatize it and sabotage the election. Postmaster DeJoy, resign now,” Blumenthal said as the crowd cheered.

Despite the outcry, DeJoy spoke strongly Friday at a high-profile Senate hearing that various changes will not be happening as originally stated. Since the changes were announced, some Democratic lawmakers have called for DeJoy’s ouster and want further details about how DeJoy was hired in the key post.

During the hearing in front of U.S. senators, DeJoy said flatly that he was “extremely, highly confident” that postal workers will be able to handle the large volume of ballots across the country in the days and weeks leading to the November election.

DeJoy has been under fire to ensure voters that the postal service will remain a reliable source for moving the mail. Military veterans and the elderly have also expressed concerns about delays in the mailing of their life-saving medications.

In a recent case, a Suffield woman reported that she had sent her brother’s cremated remains to her sister in Maryland, but the boldly marked, two-day shipping package was lost for 12 days. Jean Egan said that her 68-year-old brother’s remains finally arrived in Maryland without detailed explanation about the reasons for the extensive delay.

“The postmaster general owes the Egan family an apology,” Blumenthal said Saturday. “The postmaster general owes America an apology. And the postmaster general owes America his resignation now, and we should pass legislation to restore and protect the postal service so that America can vote without doubt or credibility, without Donald Trump’s sabotage so that America can have confidence again that, regardless of the weather, regardless of the party in power, regardless of who is president, the postal service will be counted and credible.”

Various unions and activists organized the nationwide rallies.

“Trump’s attack on the postal service cannot stand,” said Lindsay Farrell, state director for the union-backed Connecticut Working Families Party. “His open, brazen sabotage of the USPS to prevent people from voting him out of office is a direct attack on our democracy and our local infrastructure. We are determined to make our voices heard _ both this weekend in Hartford, and every day until we get him out of the White House.”

State attorney general William Tong and other attorneys general have filed a lawsuit regarding the problems with postal deliveries.

The postal service has told states that it “cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted.”

In Connecticut, nearly 60% of the ballots during the August 11 presidential primary were absentee _ far higher than the average of about 7% over the past 25 years.

DeJoy, though, has defended the postal service and says flatly that it will be ready for record numbers of ballots in the mail in October and November.

“There has been no changes to any policies with regard to election mail,” DeJoy said during the hearing. “As we head into the election season, I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time.”

The ongoing controversy began when the postal service said it was making various cost-cutting moves for an agency that has long had financial troubles. Congress has been under pressure to increase funding and provide billions of dollars on an emergency basis. The Democratic majority in the U.S. House was preparing to vote Saturday for $25 billion, but the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has not committed to passing the same bill.

But DeJoy said that fundamental, cost-cutting moves must be made at the postal service to ensure its long-term financial survival instead of short-term moves.

“If we just throw $25 billion at us this year and we don’t do anything, we’ll be back in two years,” DeJoy said during Friday’s hearing.

DeJoy, who told senators that he never talked to Trump about the changes at the postal service, is scheduled to testify in front of another Congressional committee on Monday.


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