SCOTUS Sides with Trump in Border Wall Dispute

President Donald Trump at the U.S.-Mexico border in Calexico, Calif., April 5, 2019 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that President Trump acted within his authority when he unilaterally appropriated $2.5 billion in military funds to build 100 miles of his long-promised border wall.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices reversed a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that barred the administration from accessing the funding. Trump’s attorneys immediately appealed to the High Court, citing the September 30 deadline by which the administration must either spend the money or forfeit it due to the close of the fiscal year.

The court’s conservative justices sided firmly with the administration while liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kegan fully dissented, leaving Justice Stephen Breyer to suggest a compromise in a partial dissent.

Lower courts have ruled that the move encroaches on the Congressional power to allocate funding.

“The Constitution assigns to Congress the power of the purse,” the 9th Circuit said in July while upholding a lower court’s ruling. “It is Congress that is to make decisions regarding how to spend taxpayer dollars.”

President Trump declared a national emergency to appropriate the funds in February after congressional Democrats ensured that a pending spending bill did not allocate the funding demanded for the wall’s construction.

The resulting order reallocated $600 billion from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund; $3.6 billion from the military construction budget; and $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense drug seizure program.

The High Court’s Friday decision came in response to a challenge issued by a collection of environmentalist organizations led by the Sierra Club. The groups specifically objected to the administration’s use of seized narcotic funds to build 100 miles of fencing along the border in Arizona, New Mexico, and California, arguing that the barrier would interfere in recreational activities like “hiking, birdwatching, [and] photography.”

Attorneys representing the administration argued that the environmental groups’ recreational concerns are outweighed by the state’s interest in addressing the humanitarian cost associated with the smuggling of narcotics across the border.

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