Appeals Court Sides With Postal Service Against Bush in Stamp Dispute
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal appeals court sided with the U.S. Postal Service against President Bush on Friday in a yearlong dispute over stamp prices.
The decision stops Bush’s attempt to fire members of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors over the dispute.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals effectively rejected the administration’s request to lift a lower court judge’s injunction prohibiting Bush from the firings.
Instead, the judges granted the Postal Service’s motion to challenge before them the independent Postal Rate Commission’s proposal for a discount 27-cent stamp for bar-coded mail.
Bush had sided with the rate commission in the dispute and had threatened earlier this month to fire a majority of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors if they didn’t withdraw the suit in the Court of Appeals.
The decision was the second case that Bush lost before the appeals court on Friday, just five days before he leaves office. Another three-judge panel ordered him to make backup tapes of electronic mail and other federal records on White House computers before his term expires Jan. 20.
In the postal case, Circuit Judges Patricia Wald, Stephen Williams and Karen LeCraft Henderson ″granted in part″ the Postal Service’s request to challenge the Postal Rate Commission’s approval of the proposed 27-cent stamp. They gave the Postal Service until April 16 to file briefs in the case.
The ruling rejected for the time-being the administration’s claim that Bush has constitutional authority over the Postal Service and that the agency can only go to court through his attorney general.
But it also let stand a preliminary injunction issued Jan. 7 by U.S. District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer prohibiting Bush from firing members of the board of governors who disagree with him.
Bush defied Oberdorfer’s order a week ago, replacing one the Postal board’s 11 governors, Crocker Nevin, with a longtime friend, Thomas Ludlow Ashley, a former Democratic congressman from Ohio and now a banking lobbyist.
But Nevin’s term had expired in December. And the president took no action against the five other governors who went to Oberdorfer seeking an injunction to prevent Bush from firing them.
The Postal Board’s chairman, Bert Macke, called the appeals court’s decision gratifying in a case that involves ″complex issues of constitutional and statutory interpretation.″
The Postal Service had contended that when Congress abolished the Post Office as an agency of the president’s Cabinet and changed its name, the purpose was to have an independent board free of White House control run it.
″We felt very clearly that the intent of the Congress when it enacted the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 was to create an independent environment for fair and nonpolitical rate-making,″ Macke said.