U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar used Duluth's main post office as a backdrop Monday to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to fund the United States Postal Service at a time of increased mail-in balloting.
"We can’t mess around with people's right to vote by having (the ballots) delayed," Klobuchar, D-Minn., said at 2800 W. Michigan St., home to the Postal Service's main branch in Duluth.
Federal treatment of the Postal Service has come under fire in the last several weeks, as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, an appointee of President Donald Trump, has overseen the slowdown of service nationwide by curbing overtime and pulling out sorting machines from distribution centers.
Klobuchar talked about blue mailboxes being taken out of American communities, and nine total sorting machines having been removed from distribution centers in the Twin Cities as part of a national pattern within the network. She also noted overtime was restricted at a time when 40,000 postal workers have been quarantined due to COVID-19. Roughly 6,000 postal workers are reported to have contracted COVID-19 and 80 have died from it.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed $25 billion in funding to support the Postal Service, but the bill has stalled in an effort to bring it before the Senate.
"That bill should be heard immediately in the U.S. Senate," Klobuchar said. "But Mitch McConnell has not called us back. I would go — literally, I would fly from Minnesota tonight — I would get on whatever flights are left and get myself out there to vote on this bill. But he refuses to call us back."
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson spoke along with the senator, saying she was deeply concerned about the measures which have served to slow mail delivery and caused others to encourage absentee voters to conduct their balloting as soon as possible so their ballots are received in time to be counted in the Nov. 3 general election.
"The mail — your prescription drugs, paying your rent, and corresponding with loved ones — that is not a political act," Larson said. "That is just getting through your day and getting through your life."
Both Klobuchar and Larson gave scope to mail-in balloting, with Klobuchar saying nationally 60%-70% of ballots figure to be mailed in. Larson added the city doubled its mail-in figures during the primary and can expect to do so again during the general election.
Paul Hanson, 68, of Duluth, attended the news conference, which featured at least three vehicles driving by yelling and revving their engines in effort to disrupt the scene.
"I want the post office funded," Hanson said. "I don't want Mickey Mouse baloney about mail-in balloting. It's creating a lot of fear."
Klobuchar said that barring a callback by McConnell, the soonest the Senate would reconvene to address Postal Service funding was after Labor Day.
She also pushed the Senate to address the $3 trillion Heroes Act, a COVID-19 recovery package passed by the House, but also sidelined by McConnell in the Senate.
"You can't just leave Duluth and the state of Minnesota on their own," Klobuchar said. "That's why we're working so hard to get the Heroes Act passed."
The Heroes Act would fund election protections during the pandemic, economic recovery, and give added funding to the Postal Service.
Klobuchar also added she was trying to get funding into the Heroes Act for concert and arts venues, which she said were among the first to close during the pandemic and will be among the last to open.