A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco dealt a blow to President Donald Trump’s ability to fund wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The three-judge panel ruled Wednesday that the president can’t reallocate money from the Department of Defense to fund border wall construction, agreeing with a lower court ruling, according to the Associated Press. The funds were to be used to construct high-priority sections of wall in California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
“As for the public interest, we conclude that it is best served by respecting the Constitution’s assignment of the power of the purse to Congress, and by deferring to Congress’s understanding of the public interest as reflected in its repeated denial of more funding for border barrier construction,” wrote Judges Richard Clifton and Michelle Friedland.
The three-judge panel was divided, however. N. Randy Smith, appointed by George W. Bush, issued a strong rebuke to the majority, arguing that the ruling misread the separation of powers set out by the Constitution.
“The majority here takes an uncharted and risky approach — turning every question of whether an executive officer exceeded a statutory grant of power into a constitutional issue,” Smith wrote in the dissent. “This approach is in contradiction to the most fundamental concepts of judicial review.”
The ruling was the latest in the Trump administration’s bid to tap Department of Defense funds for border wall construction, allowing him to fulfill a major campaign promise.
Democrats and the White House ended the longest government shutdown in U.S. history over a disagreement for wall funding. The two sides agreed to spend nearly $1.4 billion on physical barriers in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, an area rife with illegal crossings. However, the amount was far below the $5.7 billion Trump originally requested of lawmakers.
Trump angered Democrats after he declared a national emergency in February, a move that allowed him to bypass Congress and allocate billions more for wall construction on the U.S. southern border. Democratic lawmakers threatened to strip the Defense Department of its budgetary authority after The Pentagon diverted $1 billion in March to build new physical barriers.
Democrats were unable to pass a resolution in March stopping Trump’s emergency declaration. House Democrats tried to sue to stop the president’s use of the Pentagon funds, but a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled against them in early June. (RELATED: Mexico Overwhelmed As It Takes On More Illegal Immigrants)
However, the lawsuit brought on by the America Civil Liberties Union has found success in stopping Trump’s immigration agenda in the 9th Circuit.
While the Trump administration can challenge Wednesday’s decision, it cannot build any new barrier while it waits for an appeal.
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