Trump border wall suit, Judge rejects House Democrats.
A federal judge in Washington on Monday rejected a House lawsuit to block spending on President Trump’s plan to build a wall at the border with Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden of the District denied a House request to temporarily stop spending on the wall saying the House lacked legal standing to sue the president over he overstepped his power by diverting billions intended for other purposes to pay for it.
“While the Constitution bestows upon Members of the House many powers, it does not grant them standing to hale the Executive Branch into court claiming a dilution of Congress’s legislative authority,” McFadden wrote in a 24-page decision, continuing, “The Court therefore lacks jurisdiction to hear the House’s claims and will deny its motion.”
The decision is at odds with a May 24 ruling by a federal judge in California that temporarily blocked part of the plan to build using money Congress never appropriated for that purpose.
A central issue in both lawsuits is whether diverting the funds is an illegal act that violates constitutional separation of powers between government branches. Both sets of challenges — the plaintiffs in California included states and environmental — were brought shortly after the president declared a national emergency along the southern border.
The judge in Washington never reached the merits of the Democratic-led House’s claim, ruling instead that a single chamber of Congress does not have legal standing to sue the executive branch.
“While the Constitution bestows upon Members of the House many powers, it does not grant them standing to hale the Executive Branch into court claiming a dilution of Congress’s legislative authority,” McFadden, a 2017 Trump appointee, wrote in a 24-page decision, continuing, “The Court therefore lacks jurisdiction to hear the House’s claims and will deny its motion.”
McFadden’s order effectively kills the House suit, which sought to block the administration from tapping not only $1 billion already transferred from military pay and pensions accounts but also money from an emergency military construction fund that the administration said it intends to transfer but has not yet moved.
McFadden’s decision ran counter to a 2015 ruling that found the then GOP-led House could sue the Obama administration for allegedly spending on an Affordable Care Act program that Congress never approved, a ruling that would have marked the first time the House was able to challenge an administration in court. The case was settled before it withstood appeal.
McFadden wrote that “Applying Burwell (the 2015 decision) to the facts here would clash with binding precedent holding that Congress may not invoke the courts’ jurisdiction to attack the execution of federal laws.”
He added, “The Executive and Legislative Branches have resolved their spending disputes without enlisting courts’ aid,” he said, finding Congress had many other levers to deploy in its conflict with a president. “The House thus ‘lack(s) support from precedent,’ and ’historical practice appears to cut against (it) as well,” he wrote.
In a hearing last month, McFadden had said it was “problematic” whether the House had legal standing to sue as a single chamber of Congress and said that is a “significant issue in this case.”
On May 24, U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., of the Northern District of California, said that those challenging Trump’s actions that case had a good chance of prevailing on their claims that the administration is acting illegally in shifting money from other programs to pay for the wall.
Gilliam is a 2014 appointee of President Barack Obama. He ruled in response to lawsuits brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition.
The California court ruled against using the already transferred funds and blocks projects slated for immediate construction. The court said it would come back with a ruling on the emergency military construction funds once the administration actually shifts them. The decision applies to wall segments around Yuma and El Paso.
With some contracts already awarded for construction, Gilliam said that allowing work to go forward before the legal issues have been fully resolved could cause irreparable harm. He also said plaintiffs can come back to seek injunctions if and when the Trump administration announces additional projects at the border.
The Justice Department has argued the funding dispute amounts to a political disagreement that should be settled outside of the legal system, suggesting that instead of suing, Congress could instead have passed a law explicitly saying that “no money shall be obligated” in any form to construct a border barrier.
The House sued on April 5 in Washington to block Trump’s plan to transfer $6.7 billion for a “big beautiful” wall he had promised during his campaign.
Congress declined to fund it, and then after a 35-day partial government shutdown, appropriated $1.375 million for border barriers.
On the same day he signed the spending bill, Trump made his emergency declaration. The administration said added financing for the wall will include $3.6 billion diverted from Pentagon construction projects, $2.5 billion transferred from other defense programs into a military program to install counterdrug fencing at the border, and $600 million collected in enforcement and forfeiture actions by customs and treasury agencies.
Pentagon will shift an additional $1.5 billion to help fund Trump’s border wall
The law the administration invoked to shifts funds allows transfers for “unforeseen” events.
In his California ruling, Gilliam said the government claim the wall construction was unforeseen did not square with the president’s many funding demands dating to early 2018 and even in the 2016 campaign.