The Supreme Court said Monday that it will not take up a challenge brought by several environmental groups to President Trump’s border wall.
As part of its effort to fast-track the construction of barriers in several states along the border with Mexico, the Trump administration has waived dozens of environmental, health and safety laws. Environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife sued in January, charging that the Department of Homeland Security had exceeded its authority in granting the waivers. A lower court rejected the challengers’ claim, and the high court’s decision Monday brings the suit to an end.
Appeals court backs congressional power of the purse: Trump’s signature border effort suffered a setback Friday, however, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the administration lacked the authority to use Pentagon funds to help pay for construction of the wall. Responding to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2019, the appeals panel said that the administration violated the Constitution when it transferred $2.5 billion in funds that had been appropriated by Congress for use by the Department of Defense.
“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,’” Chief Judge Sidney Thomas wrote for the majority. “Therefore, the transfer of funds here was unlawful.”
Robert Tsai, a constitutional scholar at American University, told The Hill that the decision pushes back against Trump’s effort to seize control over the power of the purse, shaped in part by his declaration of a national emergency. “This decision is an important win for democratic accountability and a huge blow to President Trump’s pretensions to unilateral power over the purse. The Ninth Circuit read federal law closely and found that the shift of funds was not for a military purpose and that the needs he cited were not unforeseen — in other words, that the president has fabricated an emergency to complete his pet project.”
It’s not clear what effect the decision, which will likely come before the Supreme Court, may have. The high court ruled last year that the administration could begin using the Pentagon funds while challenges worked their way through the court system.