WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday handed President Donald Trump a victory by letting his administration redirect $2.5 billion in money approved by Congress for the Pentagon to help build his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border even though lawmakers refused to provide funding.
The conservative-majority court on a 5-4 vote with the court’s liberals in dissent blocked in full a ruling by a federal judge in California barring the Republican president from spending the money on the basis that Congress did not specifically authorise the funds to be spent on the wall project fiercely opposed by Democrats and Mexico’s government.
“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!” Trump tweeted just minutes after the court acted.
A brief order explaining the court’s decision said the government “made a sufficient showing” that the groups challenging the decision did not have grounds to bring a lawsuit.
In a highly unusual move, Trump on Feb. 15 declared a national emergency in a bid to fund the wall without congressional approval, an action Democrats said exceeded his powers under the U.S. Constitution and usurped the authority of Congress.
The administration has said it plans to redirect $6.7 billion from the Departments of Defence and Treasury towards wall construction under the emergency declaration after failing to convince Congress to provide the money, including the $2.5 billion in Pentagon funding. Congress earlier failed to provide $5.7 billion in wall funding demanded by Trump in a showdown in which the president triggered a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended in January.
The case arose from a challenge to Trump’s action brought by Sierra Club, a leading environmental group, and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a group advocating for people living in border areas.
The challengers have said the wall would be disruptive to the environment in part because it could worsen flooding problems and have a negative impact on wildlife.
U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam ruled on May 30 in Oakland, California that the administration’s proposal to build parts of the border wall in California, New Mexico and Arizona with money appropriated for the Defence Department to use in the fight against illegal drugs was unlawful. The judge issued an injunction barring use of the Pentagon funds for a border wall.
The administration asked that the injunction barring use of the reprogrammed funds be put on hold pending an appeal but the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to do so.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Diane Craft)