A U.S. judge barred President Donald Trump from using $3.6 billion in military construction funds to pay for a wall along the Mexico border.
Tuesday’s order follows an October ruling by U.S. District Judge David Briones in El Paso, Texas, in which he concluded Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to redirect Defense Department appropriations to a wall project that Congress specifically refused to pay for was illegal. The government is appealing the October ruling.
The decision by Briones could hinder the ability of lawmakers to agree on a fiscal 2020 spending bill package this week where border wall funding is once again a key stumbling block and a shutdown looms Dec. 20. The White House might double down on its request for more direct wall funding if the transfer option is barred.
Briones found, because the administration’s actions “are unlawful and the people’s representatives – Congress – declined to augment the border wall project as defendants attempt, the public interest would be served by halting them.”
The judge said he is not blocking the president from using $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds earmarked for a counter-drug program, consistent with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in July that let the administration move forward with building 100 miles of border fencing.
“The president’s emergency proclamation was a blatant attempt to grab power from Congress,” said Kristy Parker, a lawyer for Protect Democracy, which represents the county of El Paso and a human rights group that brought the legal challenge. “Today’s order affirms that the president is not a king and that our courts are willing to check him when he oversteps his bounds.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco is weighing separate challenges to the president’s wall funding plan brought by a coalition of states and the Sierra Club.