A federal judge has denied House Democrats’ efforts to block President Donald Trump’s use of Pentagon funds for his promised wall on the border with Mexico, arguing they lacked constitutional standing to challenge the move.
“[W]hile 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’s legislative authority,” Judge Trevor McFadden wrote, siding with the Trump administration in a ruling that affirmed the House lacks the authority to unilaterally quash presidential reappropriation of funds.
A seat in Congress comes with many prerogatives, but legal standing to superintend the execution of laws is not among them.
Attempting to steer clear of involvement in the House’s “political turf war with the President over the implementation of legislation,” McFadden padded his decision with a conciliatory acknowledgement of the Democrats’ numerous potential investigative routes to victory – over 50, by his count – but drew a distinction between the House’s investigatory powers and its power over appropriations, denying the latter.
House Democrats filed suit in April to block Trump’s emergency declaration over the protestations of their Republican colleagues, insisting that the president’s efforts to appropriate funds constituted a “usurpation of powers” from Congress and a violation of the Appropriations Clause.
McFadden’s effort to stand outside the hyperpartisan mortal combat unfolding between the crusading Democrats and their determined White House nemesis appeared to comprise equal parts respect for the constitution and self-preservation instinct. “Intervening in a contest between the House and the President over the border wall would entangle the Court ‘in a power contest nearly at the height of its political tension’ and would ‘risk damaging the public confidence that is vital to the functioning of the Judicial Branch,'” he wrote, quoting a previous ruling.
Last month, a California court blocked Trump from repurposing $1 billion in Pentagon funds to build two sections of “pedestrian fencing,” roads and lighting in Texas and Arizona, arguing the president couldn’t unilaterally seize funds without congressional approval. A total of 16 states sued to block Trump’s declaration of a border “emergency” in February after the president identified $8.1 billion in Treasury and Pentagon funds that could be reapplied toward construction.