The Supreme Court on Friday declined to block the Trump administration from using $2.5 billion in reallocated Pentagon funds to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
In a 5-4 ruling that broke along ideological lines, the court’s conservative majority denied a bid by interest groups to halt construction after a federal appeals court last month said the use of defense funding for the project is illegal. The court’s four more liberal justices dissented from the ruling.
The Sierra Club, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other challengers had asked the justices to lift their order from last July that allowed President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump campaign cancels ad buys to review messaging strategy: report Nunes declines to answer if he received information from Ukraine lawmaker meant to damage Biden Poll: Plurality of ‘Gen Z’ voters say they see more political ads from Trump than Biden MORE to begin spending the funds while legal challenges proceeded through the courts.
But the Friday ruling means the court’s July 2019 order, also decided 5-4, remains in effect despite a ruling by a federal appeals court in California last month that Trump’s diversion of defense, military and other funding was unconstitutional.
Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerSupreme Court clears way for second federal execution Supreme Court lifts stay for second federal execution this week The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by Facebook — Supreme Court allows federal executions in 2 a.m. decision MORE, in dissent, said he feared the majority’s ruling “may operate, in effect, as a final judgment.”
Legal challenges arose early last year after Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border in an effort to free up additional funding. That came after a congressional spending bill allocated some $1.3 billion for border security, far short of the nearly $5 billion Trump said was needed to complete his signature project.
Trump then reallocated $2.5 billion in funding that Congress appropriated for defense and military uses.
A federal district court halted use of the reappropriated funds. But the Supreme Court’s July 2019 ruling allowed construction to move forward while the case proceeded through the courts.
Last month, a divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled against Trump’s financing maneuver.
The court said the administration had violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution, which gives Congress the exclusive power of the purse. The decision affirmed a lower court’s injunction against the use of defense funds to build the wall.
“These funds were appropriated for other purposes, and the transfer amounted to ‘drawing funds from the Treasury without authorization by statute and thus violating the Appropriations Clause,’ ” the majority wrote. “Therefore, the transfer of funds here was unlawful.”