Constitutional Law

House sues to block Trump's use of funds for border wall

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The international border wall between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Sherry V. Smith/

The House of Representatives filed a lawsuit Friday contending that President Donald Trump usurped its legislative authority when he used an emergency declaration to appropriate funds for a border wall.

The suit says Trump demonstrated “a shocking disregard” of the appropriations clause, which states: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.” The National Law Journal, BuzzFeed News and Politico have coverage.

“The administration flouted fundamental separation-of-powers principles and usurped for itself legislative power specifically vested by the Constitution in Congress,” the suit said. “Even the monarchs of England long ago lost the power to raise and spend money without the approval of Parliament.”

Trump declared a national emergency in February in a bid to divert money for the wall, mostly from funds slated for the military. His plan is to combine diverted money with $1.375 billion appropriated by Congress to build the wall.

Trump cited the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which regulates how presidents can exercise emergency powers given to them in hundreds of specific statutes. The law gives Congress the authority to vote to repeal an emergency, but a Supreme Court decision gives the president the authority to sign the resolution into law or to veto it.

Congress had voted to block Trump’s emergency declaration, but it was unable to override his March 15 veto.

The suit says Trump is relying on underlying statutes regarding military and drug-fighting spending that restrict how money can be used. The restrictions bar use of the money for a border wall, the suit contends. The suit also says the National Emergencies Act can be invoked only when actual emergencies exist.

The suit says Trump’s decision to tap the funds for his wall was in excess of his authority and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The suit asks a judge to block the spending of $1 billion in funds already transferred March 25 for the wall and to block any further money transfers for border wall construction.

Other suits also have been filed over Trump’s emergency declaration. Sixteen states sued in February.

See also: “Can Trump legally use emergency powers to build a border wall? Experts weigh in”

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