Here is yet another activist judge making decisions about what the President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces can do with Department of Defense construction money.
A federal court in Texas issued a nationwide injunction late on Tuesday preventing the Trump administration from using $3.6 billion in military construction funds to erect a wall along the southern border, ruling that an emergency proclamation that enabled the government to access the funds was unlawful.
Judge David Briones of Federal District Court in El Paso said that the president’s proclamation, issued in January, violated congressional restrictions that limited funding for border-wall construction to $1.2375 billion.
The latest ruling turns on a different issue than an earlier injunction, issued by a federal judge in California. The United States Supreme Court stayed that injunction, allowing the administration to begin using a separate package of $2.5 billion in Pentagon money for the construction.
“Today’s order affirms that the president cannot use a national emergency declaration to usurp Congress’s power of the purse,” said Kristy Parker, a counsel for Protect Democracy who represented the plaintiffs in the case, the Texas county of El Paso and the Border Network for Human Rights, an advocacy organization.
Mr. Trump has sought to tap two sources of funding to pay for expansion of a wall on the southern border. One of them was a drug interdiction fund, the other a military construction fund available only in case of a national emergency.
Mr. Trump declared a national emergency on the southern border in February in order to access the funds.
In the earlier California case, the injunction barred the use of the drug interdiction funds, but the Supreme Court’s stay, lifting the injunction while litigation on the legal issues was proceeding, paved the way for construction of the wall to continue.
There has been no final determination on the legality of the government’s use of those funds, but the administration moved in August to tap the Pentagon funds as an alternative — the subject of Tuesday’s court injunction in Texas.
The Trump administration had argued that while Congress had refused to authorize the Department of Homeland Security to spend more than $1.375 billion on border wall construction, the president had discretion to declare a national emergency to reprogram existing funds for the barrier.
The plaintiffs countered that the emergency declaration falsely characterized the border region as dangerous, undermining business and tourism.
In October, Judge Briones ruled that the use of the military funds violated the congressional funding limit. On Tuesday, the judge issued his final order, blocking the government from using the $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds.