October 29, 2020

Katie Porter, AOC among House freshmen making their mark by grilling witnesses

Last month, embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s House Oversight Committee hearing was in its fifth hour when Rep. Katie Porter’s five minutes to ask questions arrived.

“Mr. DeJoy, thank you for being with us today,” Porter, D-Calif., began. “What is the cost of a first-class postage stamp?”

DeJoy knew the price of the stamp — 55 cents — but was unable to answer Porter’s questions about the cost to mail a postcard, priority mail shipping rates and the number of Americans who voted by mail in the last presidential election.

“I’m glad you know the price of a stamp, but I’m concerned about your understanding of this agency,” Porter said as she moved the questioning to her real concerns after that opening salvo. “And I’m particularly concerned about it because you started taking very decisive action when you became postmaster general. You started directing the unplugging and destroying of machines, changing of employee procedures and locking of collection boxes.”

DeJoy said the changes that had caused slowdowns in mail delivery started before he took over the agency, and Porter turned to questions about who had ordered the changes (he didn’t know), whether he’d reverse them (no), whether he would commit to resigning if the inspector general found evidence of misconduct with his other businesses (he wouldn’t) and if he had any financial interests in Amazon (again, no).

The Aug. 24 hearing was the latest example of a trend that congressional observers have noted this term: Junior representatives like Porter, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., are using their time to ask hard questions of witnesses, seeking actual answers, while more senior members are more inclined to play to the cameras, delivering speeches or lectures.

 

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