A group of 40 Republican senators is asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to step in and limit President BidenJoe BidenMarcus Garvey's descendants call for Biden to pardon civil rights leader posthumously GOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors MORE’s ability to halt construction of the border wall.
Biden did so with an executive order on his first day in office, freezing nearly $1.4 billion in funds Congress set aside for the wall.
But lawmakers say the move infringes on Congress’s power of the purse, requesting a legal opinion from the GAO.
“An appropriations act is a law like any other; therefore, the president must take care to ensure that appropriations are prudently obligated in the manner they were provided by Congress,” lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal GOP ramps up attacks on SALT deduction provision MORE (R-W.Va.).
An Office of Management and Budget official responded to the letter, saying, “Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats, but building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution."
"The billions of American taxpayer dollars that the previous administration redirected for border wall construction were never appropriated by Congress for that purpose and President Biden’s proclamation makes it quite clear that construction should only be paused to the extent permitted by law," the official added.
The issue is a complex one.
The White House has frequently refused to answer reporters' questions about the remaining border wall funds and how they might be used.
In February it also sent a formal notice to Congress that it would terminate the emergency designation that former President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE used to justify diverting military funding to its construction.
But lawmakers in their letter argued that notification does not qualify as a “special message” needed to permanently withdraw funds, adding that even if Biden does so now it “will not cure the unlawful actions he has taken to date.”
The Supreme Court already agreed to cancel a hearing on the emergency funds used for the wall after a number of organizations sued the Trump administration.
Funding for the wall has already proven a political issue for Biden, with Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTo counter China, the Senate must confirm US ambassadors Facebook unblocks Rittenhouse searches GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions MORE (R-Mo.) putting a hold on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHillicon Valley —TSA to strengthen rail sector cybersecurity TSA issues directives to rail sector to strengthen cybersecurity US to restart 'Remain in Mexico' program following court order MORE’s nomination earlier this year due to border wall funding.
Updated at 12:34 p.m.