Supreme Court declines to halt Trump border wall

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to block the Trump administration from using $2.5 billion in reallocated Pentagon funds to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

In a 5-4 ruling that broke along ideological lines, the court's conservative majority denied a bid by interest groups to halt construction after a federal appeals court last month said the use of defense funding for the project is illegal. The court’s four more liberal justices dissented from the ruling.

The Sierra Club, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other challengers had asked the justices to lift their order from last July that allowed President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE to begin spending the funds while legal challenges proceeded through the courts.

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But the Friday ruling means the court’s July 2019 order, also decided 5-4, remains in effect despite a ruling by a federal appeals court in California last month that Trump’s diversion of defense, military and other funding was unconstitutional.

Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerHouse Democrats can sue Trump over U.S.-Mexico border wall funding, court rules Supreme Court declines to halt Trump border wall Supreme Court clears way for second federal execution MORE, in dissent, said he feared the majority’s ruling “may operate, in effect, as a final judgment.”

Legal challenges arose early last year after Trump declared a national emergency at the southern border to free up additional funding. That came after a congressional spending bill allocated some $1.3 billion for border security, far short of the nearly $5 billion Trump said was needed to complete his signature project.

Trump then reallocated $2.5 billion in funding that Congress appropriated for defense and military uses.

A federal district court halted use of the reappropriated funds. But the Supreme Court’s July 2019 ruling allowed construction to move forward while the case proceeded through the courts.

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Last month, a divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled against Trump’s financing maneuver. 

The court said the administration had violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution, which gives Congress the exclusive power of the purse. The decision affirmed a lower court’s injunction against the use of defense funds to build the wall.

“These funds were appropriated for other purposes, and the transfer amounted to ‘drawing funds from the Treasury without authorization by statute and thus violating the Appropriations Clause,’ ” the majority wrote. “Therefore, the transfer of funds here was unlawful.”