President Trump, vowing to block emergency funding for the United States Postal Service in the next coronavirus relief package, said on Thursday that without it, a largely mail-in voting election would not be possible.
Trump made the comments as he discussed the funding that Democrats are seeking as part of a deal on coronavirus relief: $25 billion to shore up the postal service and $3.6 billion for states to implement vote by mail programs.
“Those are just two items. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it,” Trump said during an interview with Fox Business Thursday morning.
During his press briefing on Wednesday, Trump similarly railed against the Democrats’ plan, predicting, “the bill’s not going to happen” because of their demands.
“They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess,” he said.
Trump’s comments sparked a swift backlash from Democrats, who accused him of tampering with the election process for his own political gain.
“The President of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years,” a spokesperson for former vice president Joe Biden said in a statement.
“Trump just admitted on TV that he’s deliberately sabotaging the USPS because he thinks it’ll help him steal the election,” Representative Jim McGovern said in a tweet. “For three months now, Senate Republicans have been blocking $25 billion that Democrats passed to save the USPS. Hold. Them. Accountable. For. This.”
The United States Postal Service is in the midst of a severe budget crunch that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has denounced mail-in voting for months by making unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud — although he briefly reversed himself in a tweet last week, urging voters in Florida to request mail-in ballots.
The president’s comments came as talks over the next relief bill have remained stalled, with no movement in sight. The extra $600 weekly payments for unemployed Americans ended about two weeks ago, leaving millions in dire financial straights in a partially shut down economy with a double-digit unemployment rate.
But Democrats and the White House don’t have agreement on the size or scope of the next bill, and congressional Republicans, their ranks divided, have moved to the sidelines.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.