Great Falls Tribune: Tester, Bullock call for action to help postal service

by Phil Drake

Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Jon Tester on Friday called on the Senate to take action with funding for the U.S. Postal Service, saying it is vital to Montanans.

The two Democrats, with the Charles M. Russell Post Office on 9th Avenue South in Great Falls serving as a backdrop, criticized the GOP-led Senate for not taking action.

They also singled out Montana GOP Sen. Steve Daines, who Bullock is running against in the Nov. 3 election, for not pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get a bill passed that would help the financially strapped postal service.

Gov. Steve Bullock speaks Friday at a rally supporting funding for the U.S. Postal Service.
Bullock said Montana’s rural communities rely on the postal service. He said veterans and tribal nations depend on mail delivery, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

“Access to the postal service is more important now than ever before, so I get it,” he said, adding that the integrity of the mail service is at risk.

Tester said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has implemented policies that have delayed mail, removed collection boxes, dismantled sorting machines across Montana and cut worker overtime.

DeJoy has said he will delay his policies until after the Nov. 3 election, “but he has still refused to say why he did these actions in the first place,” Tester said.

President Donald Trump has reportedly said he was blocking $25 billion in emergency aid to the postal service, acknowledging he wanted to curtail election mail operations, as well as a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6 billion in additional election money to the states to help process an expected surge of mail-in ballots.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Saturday that would send $25 billion to help the postal service ahead of the November election. The legislation is expected to stall in the GOP-held Senate and the White House said the president would veto it.

Montana’s congressional delegation, Bullock and Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, a Democrat now running for governor against GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte, have been asking questions about the changes to postal delivery.

“We’re here for one reason, the postal service, which is a lifeline for rural America, is under attack,” Tester said at Friday’s rally, adding the U.S. Senate has “stuck its head in the sand” when it comes to the postal service when it should be leading the way.

He said his office has received nearly 7,000 comments from Montanans about the issue.

Montana officials have said 14 residential mail collection boxes were removed from Lewistown, Livingston, Manhattan, Helena, Glendive, Bozeman and Shelby. They are expected to be reinstated until after the election.

Friday’s event served as a campaign rally for Bullock as Tester said that Washington, D.C., would change as Bullock would bring “Montana common sense with him.”

Bullock also said Daines has balked at the legislation and should approach McConnell to advocate for the aid bill and to call the Senate back into session.

Daines staff said he has been working with Republicans and Democrats to ensure the U.S. Postal Service has the resources and funding needed and will continue to do so.

They referenced recent media reports that said mail delivery was not impacted much by recent changes.

“The senator was glad to see Montana postal folks say they have not had major issues with operations and he will continue working with folks on the ground to make sure operations remain strong,” a spokeswoman said. “Politicizing the postal service is not the answer here.”

Bullock said an “attack on the postal service is an attack on our way of life.”

“There are some things above petty, partisan politics we see come out of Washington, D.C. every day, and a service as essential as mail delivery ought to be one of them,” he said.

Afterward, Bullock and other Democrats running for state and federal offices attended a campaign event with the Montana Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians at the Little Shell Cultural Center.