Donald Trump administration can now redirect approximately $2.5bn approved by Congress for the Pentagon to help build his promised wall along the US-Mexico border even though lawmakers refused to provide funding.
The Trump administration planned to use the $2.5bn on four contracts to replace existing sections of barrier in Arizona, California and New Mexico with more robust fencing.
The supreme court’s five conservative justices agreed to block a ruling in lower courts that barred Trump from spending the money on the wall contracts on the basis that Congress did not specifically authorize the funds to be used that way. The court’s four liberal justices wouldn’t have allowed construction to start.
The justices’ decision to lift the freeze on the money allows Trump to make progress on a major 2016 campaign promise. Trump celebrated the ruling on Twitter.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2019
The lawsuit at the supreme court challenging the use of the defense department funds was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition. The ACLU had argued that the Trump administration “lacks authority to spend taxpayer funds on a wall that Congress considered and denied”.
A trial court in Oakland, California, initially froze the funds in May, and an appeals court kept the freeze in place earlier this month.
The case the supreme court ruled on began after the 35-day partial government shutdown that started in December of last year. Trump ended the shutdown in February after Congress gave him approximately $1.4bn in border wall funding. But the amount was far less than the $5.7bn he was seeking, and Trump then declared a national emergency to take cash from other government accounts to use to construct sections of wall.