Supreme Court to hear case over Trump border wall

At issue in the case is the president’s move to repurpose about $6 billion in military construction and counterdrug appropriations to finance the wall.

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether President Donald Trump unconstitutionally usurped Congress’ spending power by diverting Defense Department funds to pay for expansion and reinforcement of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The high court’s announcement in a routine order list Monday morning was widely expected because in July 2019 the justices allowed construction of the wall with disputed funds to proceed by staying a lower court injunction.

The justices typically grant review after issuing a stay like the one last year, particularly in a high-profile legal fight like the one over Trump’s border wall. At issue in the case is the president’s February 2019 move to repurpose about $6 billion in military construction and counterdrug appropriations to finance the wall, ending a budget standoff with Congress and a partial government shutdown.

The president’s spending maneuver came after Congress agreed to spend only $1.375 billion in that fiscal year for border wall improvements, billions less than Trump was demanding. Trump’s actions triggered lawsuits from various quarters, including border groups, environmentalists, 20 states and the Democratic-led House of Representatives.

The Supreme Court case could divide the justices along ideological lines if the vote turns out to be similar to the action on the stay, which was granted by the court’s five Republican-appointed justices and opposed by the four Democratic appointees.

One of the liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died in September. Trump has nominated appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy. The Senate could vote to approve her nomination within days.

The border wall case, which involves interpretation of the executive branch’s authority to shift funds between budget accounts, will likely be heard early next year.

The Supreme Court also announced Monday that it will take up another immigration-related Trump initiative, the so-called Remain in Mexico policy under which most asylum applicants who present themselves at the southwest border are returned to Mexico to await a hearing before an immigration judge.

 As with the border wall, the Supreme Court granted a stay that allowed the administration to press on with the asylum policy. The high court’s action in March of this year allowed the program, formally known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” to continue. 


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