WASHINGTON – The US Supreme Court ruled on Friday that President Donald Trump can use $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds for the construction of a wall on the southern border with Mexico.
The justices voted 5-4 to overturn a decision by a lower court that barred the Trump administration from employing the money for a purpose other than that designated by Congress.
“Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!,” the president tweeted in response.
Trump resorted to tapping funds from the Defense Department funds after failing to persuade Congress to appropriate more money for the wall in a standoff that led to a 35-day-long partial shutdown of the federal government.
On Feb. 15, the president declared a national emergency on the border to justify the diversion of funds.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted to block the emergency declaration and the Senate, where Trump’s Republicans are in the majority, followed suit, but the president vetoed the legislation and the White House announced plans to spend $8 billion on the wall.
That sum would include just under $1.38 billion from a Homeland Security appropriations bill that Congress passed on Feb. 14 to avert a new government shutdown, while the remaining $6.6 billion in funds was to be shifted from other programs through a combination of executive actions and the national emergency declaration.
Trump’s pledge to build a wall to put a stop to illegal immigration is considered priority No. 1 by his core group of supporters and was a key factor in his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the administration on behalf of the environmental group Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, which represents organizations from San Diego to southeastern Texas.
A federal district court in California sided with the plaintiffs, finding that the public interest was “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.”
The Trump administration challenged the decision, which was upheld by a panel the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco.
The White House then appealed to the Supreme Court, insisting that the district court misinterpreted the law and that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.