Judge tosses House Dems’ lawsuit over Trump’s use of emergency military funds for border wall | His Word - Christianity Today

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Washington, D.C., district court Judge Trevor McFadden threw out House Democrats’ lawsuit seeking an injunction against President Trump’s emergency border wall funding reallocation, saying that the matter is fundamentally a political dispute and that the politicians lack standing to make the case.

Trump had declared a national emergency this past February over the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, following Congress’ failure to fund his border wall legislatively. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democrats then filed suit in April, charging that Trump was “stealing from appropriated funds” by moving $6.7 billion toward border wall construction.

Democrats argued that the White House had “flouted the fundamental separation-of-powers principles and usurped for itself legislative power specifically vested by the Constitution in Congress.” But, in his ruling, McFadden, a Trump appointee, suggested Democrats were trying to usurp the political process.

“This case presents a close question about the appropriate role of the Judiciary in resolving disputes between the other two branches of the Federal Government. To be clear, the court does not imply that Congress may never sue the Executive to protect its powers,” McFadden wrote in his opinion. “The Court declines to take sides in this fight between the House and the President.”

McFadden emphasized that under the so-called “political question doctrine” and existing Supreme Court precedent, courts generally stay out of politically sensitive matters best left to voters. And, he noted that House Democrats had the burden of demonstrating that they had standing — a difficult hurdle for any plaintiff to clear, which involves showing a particularized injury that the court can address.

Especially in the context of political questions involving legislators, McFadden asserted, the availability of other “institutional remedies” — actions prescribed by the constitution besides litigation — counseled against finding that Democrats had standing.

For example, McFadden noted Democrats had various other methods with which to pursue their objectives legislatively. The Trump administration argued in its brief that when Congress was concerned about “unauthorized Executive Branch spending in the aftermath of World War I, it responded not by threatening litigation, but by creating the General Accounting Office” — an argument the judge cited appprovingly in his opinion.

“Congress has several political arrows in its quiver to counter perceived threats to its sphere of power,” McFadden wrote. “These tools show that this lawsuit is not a last resort for the House. And this fact is also exemplified by the many other cases across the country challenging the administration’s planned construction of the border wall.”

McFadden quoted former Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion in the seminal 1803 case Marbury v. Madison, in which Marshall wrote, the “province of the [C[ourt is, solely, to decide on the rights of individuals, not to enquire how the executive, or executive officers, perform duties in which they have a discretion.”

McFadden also wrote, quoting from another Supreme Court case, “Intervening in a contest between the House and President over the border wall would entangle the Court ‘in a power contest nearly at the height of its political tension’ and would ‘risk damaging the public confidence that is vital to the functioning of the Judicial Branch.'”

Democrats argued in their lawsuit the president had overstepped his authority under the Appropriations Clause by inaccurately interpreting two of its key provisions. But, McFadden said, Democrats retained the power to modify or even repeal that law if they wanted to “exempt future appropriations” from the Trump administration’s reach. Because the White House had not “nullified” that legislative power, McFadden wrote, there was no urgent need for judicial intervention sufficient to override the considerations of the political question doctrine.

Lawmakers expressly approved only $1.375 billion in the weeks after the shutdown, to go toward funding to 55 miles of wall along the southern border. But, Trump said that was inadequate, and he pushed ahead by moving funds from other Homeland Security projects previously approved by legislators. In his budget request earlier this year, Trump formally requested another $8.6 billion from Congress, saying that would be sufficient to build more than 700 miles of wall.


At a hearing in May, McFadden hinted that courts should stay out of the matter — and suggested an appeal was imminent regardless.

“I’m not sure how much necessarily our views will carry the day for the courts above us,” McFadden said at the hearing.

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