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Court rules House Dems can sue Trump over Pentagon border wall funding

President Donald J. Trump , meeting with reporters, speaks with Gloria Chavez, the Chief Patrol Agent, El Centro Sector for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, during his inspection of the new border replacement wall, April 5, 2019, in Calexico, Calif. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
September 25, 2020

Democrat lawmakers may once again challenge President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall construction using military funds after a federal appeals court decision on Friday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided on Friday to reverse a lower court decision that dismissed House Democrats’ lawsuit against Trump over the diverted military funds.

The appeals court declared that the House of Representatives is afforded a “constitutionally indispensable legislative role” in appropriating funds, which is a “core structural protection of the Constitution — a wall, so to speak, between the branches of government that prevents encroachment of the House’s and Senate’s power of the purse.”

Trump’s diversion of funds violated the House’s role, the court said.

The case now returns to U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, who had dismissed the House’s lawsuit in June, when he determined that the House did not have the legal standing to pursue a lawsuit against the administration.

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House Democrats had filed the lawsuit in April 2019, alleging Trump’s administration “flouted fundamental separation-of-powers principles and usurped for itself the legislative power specifically vested by the Constitution in Congress.”

The lawsuit came after Trump requested $5 billion in funding to construct the border wall, but Congress rejected that request, instead only approving $1.375 billion. The administration then decided it would use $2.5 billion in the Department of Defense’s military construction funds and reallocate it for the border wall construction after declaring a national emergency on the border.

Amid the legal battle, the Democrat-controlled House Appropriations Committee approved a military construction spending bill in July for the 2021 fiscal year that would prohibit Trump entirely from using military funds for wall construction.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled in June Trump’s reallocation military funds for wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border was unlawful. However, the Supreme Court refused to order wall construction halted while the legal battle continued.