October 25, 2020

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House Suit Over Trump Border Wall Funding Revived by Court

(Bloomberg) — House Democrats’ lawsuit over the Trump administration’s reallocation of government funds to help pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall has been revived by a federal appeals court in Washington.



a view of a mountain: A border fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico stands in Sunland Park, New Mexico.


© Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg
A border fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico stands in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

The suit accused President Donald Trump of violating the constitution by proceeding with his wall without congressional approval and by using funds that Congress had appropriated for other purposes. A three-judge panel of the appeals court on Friday scrapped a lower-court decision that said the House didn’t have legal standing to challenge the transfer of funds.

“The Executive Branch has, in a word, snatched the House’s key out of its hands,” Judge David Sentelle wrote in a 24-page ruling. “The ironclad constitutional rule is that the Executive Branch cannot spend until both the House and the Senate say so.”

The Department of Treasury did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The legal battle stems from a dispute over wall funding that led to a government shutdown in early 2019. After Congress refused to appropriate the funds the White House had requested to construct the wall, Trump declared a national emergency and allocated a total of $8.1 billion to the project, much of which was designated for other purposes, like combating organized crime.

End-Run Around Congress

The House alleged that the Trump administration violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution by doing an end-run around Congress to fund the wall, one of the president’s signature campaign promises.

The court’s decision in favor of the House is unlikely to interfere with border-wall construction anytime soon. Over the summer, another appeals court ruled against the government’s allocation of funds to pay for the wall. But in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court turned down a request from opponents of Trump to halt construction while the litigation continued.

The dispute is part of a series of legal contests between Trump and Congress over the scope of executive authority. The House also sued to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress, challenging the White House’s claim that it has total immunity from such subpoenas.

That court battle seemed resolved in August when the full slate of appeals judges in Washington ruled that Congress has legal standing to sue the executive branch. But the case was sent back to a smaller panel, which found a different basis to reject the suit. The House has vowed to seek another reversal from the full appeals court.

Read More: House Democrats Lose Appeal Over McGahn Testimony Subpoena

(Updates with background starting in fourth paragraph.)

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