House Sues To Stop Trump’s Emergency Declaration
The House of Representatives is asking a Federal Judge to block the President's emergency declaration to fund his border wall.
The House of Representatives has joined the legal effort to block President Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” at the southern border which he is using as justification to divert funding from the Defense Department and other agencies to fund construction of his border wall:
The House of Representatives has asked a federal judge to block President Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall using Defense Department funds.
On Tuesday, House lawyers requested that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden issue a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s plan to spend about $6 billion from military construction and counter-drug accounts to build additional barriers along the U.S-Mexico border.
“Defendants are moving quickly to construct the border wall, and they have awarded contracts against funds that Congress did not appropriate for that purpose. And more contracts are coming soon,” House General Counsel Doug Letter and other lawyers wrote. “Once made, these unconstitutional expenditures cannot be undone, and the grave institutional injury inflicted on the House cannot be remedied.”
The House’s 56-page motion accuses Trump of trying to make an end-run around the Constitution by ignoring Congress’s power of the purse. House lawyers also seek to use Trump’s own words against him, mentioning six times that on the day he announced the emergency, Trump also said, “I didn’t need to do this.” They also cite his campaign vow that Mexico would pay for the wall.
More than half of the money the House is seeking to block is linked to an emergency declaration Trump issued in February after he agreed to sign a budget bill following a 35-day government shutdown over wall funding. The bill contained only $1.375 billion for border fencing, far less than Trump sought.
However, the House motion seems to avoid a direct challenge to Trump’s emergency declaration. Instead, House lawyers argue that the planned spending doesn’t satisfy other legal requirements, like a need for use of the armed forces and a need to support those forces.
The motion also argues that the administration is guilty of duplicity, asserting that while officials insist some of the funds are needed for military construction, they are also tapping other funds which cannot be used for that purpose.
The House is not challenging the administration’s use of the $1.375 billion Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year or about $600 million the administration is tapping from a Treasury Forfeiture Fund.
This most recent filing follows upon the actual filing of the House lawsuit back at the beginning of April. That lawsuit joins a number of other lawsuits that have been filed across the country challenging one aspect or another of the President’s declaration of an emergency. One of those lawsuits was filed by California and fifteen other states that allege that they would be adversely impacted by the Administration’s action. Another has been filed by the watchdog group Public Citizen on behalf of Texas landowners and an environmental group in Texas. As expected, it basis much of its argument on eminent domain, private property, and environmental issues. A second lawsuit is being brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders and Wildlife, and the Animal Defense Fund. Others have been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union,
El Paso County, Texas, and the Border Network for Human Rights. Other groups have also talked about filing suits against the declaration.
Each of these lawsuits differs to some extent depending on the identity of the Plaintiffs, of course, but as a general rule, they are all based on the same set of facts. For example, the lawsuits all rely heavily on the President’s own words when he announced the declaration of an emergency back in February at the end of a process that began with the longest government shutdown in American history. At that time, the President made statements that clearly seem to undercut his claim that there is a “national emergency” on the border, especially his admission during the press conference where he announced it that he “didn’t need to do this” and that he just wanted things to move faster. This would not be the first time that the President’s own words have come back to haunt him in litigation, of course. We have also seen the same thing happen in the lawsuits over his Muslim Travel Ban and his ban on transgender troops in the military. The lawsuit also make a number of other factual allegations meant to undercut the President’s assertion that there is a “national emergency” on the border of the type that would justify invocation of the powers conferred by the National Emergencies Act of 1976, although it’s unclear how willing a court will be to look behind the President’s reasons for declaring an emergency given the broad grant of authority that the act confers on him. The lawsuits go on to allege that the President’s actions violate the principles of Separation of Powers in that it purports to allocate money in ways that Congress has not authorized, that it specifically violates the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause set forth in Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 which grants Congress the exclusive authority to appropriate money, that the declaration is outside the authority granted to the President by the Constitution or Federal Law, and that it violates several environmental laws passed by Congress in that it seeks to bypass normal environmental impact review processes that would have to be followed in the case of other Federal projects. As relief, the Complaint asks for an injunction blocking the emergency declaration and blocking any action aimed at building the wall.
So far, there has not been any significant legal developments in any of the cases filed against the President, but that’s likely to change soon since many of the cases filed back in February should be ready for hearings on the requests for an injunction by early next month.
Here are copies of the original Complaint filed by the House and the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction filed yesterday:
House of Representatives v…. by on Scribd
House of Representatives v…. by on Scribd