By Peter Blumberg | Bloomberg
U.S. judge in Texas ruled end-run around Congress was illegal, but president isn’t blocked from using money from anti-drug budget
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 that 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 may double down on its request for more direct wall funding if the transfer option is barred.
Briones found that 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 isn’t 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. Trump praised the high court’s ruling at the time.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.