Nancy Pelosi; Donald Trump (AP/Salon)

Judge denies House Democrats right to block transfer of appropriated funds to Trump's border wall

District Judge Trevor N. McFadden accused Democrats of trying "to conscript the judiciary in a political turf war"


Matthew Rozsa
June 4, 2019 1:08PM (UTC)

Update: The White House is asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to issue an emergency stay on the lower court order blocking them from beginning construction on the border wall, according to The Hill.

A judge has ruled against House Democrats in a federal lawsuit, which attempted to block President Donald Trump's ability to fund his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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"While the Constitution bestows upon members of the House many powers, it does not grant them standing to hale the executive branch into court claiming a dilution of Congress’ legislative authority," U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden wrote in a 24-page decision regarding the Democrats' lawsuit to block the transfer of funds appropriated for other means to Trump's wall. "The court therefore lacks jurisdiction to hear the House’s claims and will deny its motion."

McFadden also had harsh words for the House Democrats, whom he accused of trying "to conscript the judiciary in a political turf war."

Earlier in the decision, the judge wrote, "This is a case about whether one chamber of Congress has the 'constitutional means' to conscript the judiciary in a political turf war with the president over the implementation of legislation. The U.S. House of Representatives seeks to enjoin the secretaries and departments of the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security and the Interior (collectively, the 'administration') from spending certain funds to build a wall along our southern border. The House argues that this expenditure would violate the appropriations clause of the Constitution and usurp Congress’ authority. This harm, the House suggests, constitutes an 'institutional injury' supporting Article III standing."

If successful, the House Democrats could have have potentially stopped the Trump administration from using $1 billion transferred from military pension and pay accounts, as well as money for emergency military construction, which has not yet been transferred, to stop hinder the president's ability to construct his wall. McFadden's ruling has effectively killed the House's lawsuit, and thereby their attempts to thwart the border wall construction, although House Democrats are reportedly pursuing other options.

Although this decision contradicts a ruling last month from a California federal judge that temporarily blocked part of Trump's plan to use funding for his border wall by declaring a national emergency, there are border communities and environmental groups who among the plaintiffs in that case.

The attempts to use litigation to stop Trump's border wall have not been limited to the question of how the project is funded. In February, El Paso County in Texas and the Border Network for Human Rights filed a federal lawsuit against Trump over his decision to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall.

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"The issuance of the proclamation imposed concrete and immediate harms on plaintiffs El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights," El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights stated in their complaint. "El Paso County is a flourishing border community that has already been harmed by the president's declaration of an emergency and faces additional imminent harm from the actions authorized by the proclamation. The BNHR likewise has sustained concrete harms to itself as an organization and to its members, hundreds of families and thousands of individuals living along the border, where the president has declared an emergency, ordered the area's militarization, and authorized construction."


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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