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Court of Appeals Upholds Lower Court’s Decision to Deny Emergency Appropriation of Funds for Border Walls

by Brennan Bobbie

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling that upholds a lower court’s decision to deny the Trump administration the right to appropriate funds outside of Congressional approval. The appeal to reverse the lower court’s stay order was put forward by the Justice Department, on behalf of the Trump administration. That way, the latter can move forward in a supposed emergency need to reinforce the border walls located in Arizona, California, and New Mexico for security reasons.

The 3-judge panel of the Appeals Court though was not unanimous in arriving at the decision. Judge N. Randy Smith, an appointee of President George W. Bush, disagreed saying that a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, the Southern Border Communities Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union, is an approach that is contradictory to the basic fundamentals of judicial review. His opinion is that the majority of the panel members created a constitutional issue where none had existed. Mainly because the complainants who obtained the injunction, have no right to take part in what is actually a dispute between the U.S. president and Congress.

The dispute refers to Donald Trump’s insistence on spending as much as $8 billion for the construction and reinforcement of the U.S.-Mexico border walls, an amount that exceeded the $1.375 billion approved by Congress for border barriers. Congress denied his initial request for a $5.7 billion budget for wall-building this fiscal year, Trump’s insistence and disapproval of the national budget for the fiscal year led to a 5-week, partial shutdown of government offices and agencies.

Although Trump later relented by finally approving the national budget in order to lift the shutdown, he pursued the matter by calling a state of national emergency. In doing so, he gained the executive power to appropriate the budgets of other departments for the perceived emergency purpose of enhancing the security of the country via the border walls.

How the 9th District Court of Appeals Ruled

The two other members of the 3-judge panel, Judge Richard Clifton and Judge Michelle Friedland, wrote in a 75-page order that president Trump’s attempt to transfer Defense Department construction funds amounting to $2.5 billion in order to pursue and build the border wall project beyond what was appropriated by Congress, appeared as a clear violation of federal laww.

The Constitution delegates to Congress, the power to make decisions on how the government is to spend taxpayers’ money. More so where Congress added language that specifically states flexibility of budget does not include use for purposes previously denied by lawmakers. Judge Clifton and Friedland explained that

“Congress did not appropriate money to build the border walls Defendants (the Trump administration) seek to build here. Presumably, Congress decided such construction at this time was not in the public interest. It is not for us (the judicial branch) to reach a different conclusion.”

Moreover, Judges Clifton and Friedland cited the likelihood of the Trump administration’s violation of Appropriations Clause of the Constitution, which disallows drawing from the Treasury for purposes other that those appropriated by law.— the latter being the national budget that he initially refused to approve.

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