A federal judge threw out House Democrats’ lawsuit seeking an injunction against President Trump’s use of military funds for a border wall.
Washington, D.C., district court Judge Trevor McFadden said the fight is ultimately a political one “because the Constitution grants the House no standing to litigate these claims.”
“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, a Trump appointee, wrote in his opinion. “The Court declines to take sides in this fight between the House and the President.”
Earlier this year President Trump issued a national emergency declaration to tap funding from the Pentagon in order to begin construction on the border wall.
McFadden began by focusing on two guiding Supreme Court cases he called “lodestars”– the 2015 case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, and the 1997 case Raines v. Byrd.
“Read together, Raines and Arizona State Legislature create a spectrum of sorts,” McFadden wrote. “On one end, individual legislators lack standing to allege a generalized harm to Congress’s Article I power. On the other end, both chambers of a state legislature do have standing to challenge a nullification of their legislative authority brought about through a referendum.”
But, McFadden quickly distinguished the Arizona State Legislature case, which found institutional standing for legislators only in a limited instance. The Arizona case, the judge noted, “does not touch or concern the question whether Congress has standing to bring a suit against the President,” and the Supreme Court has found there was “no federal analogue to Arizona’s initiative power.”
Democrats’ dispute was more similar to the one in the Raines case, McFadden wrote. Under the framework and factors considered in Raines — including how similar matters have been handled historically, and the availability of other remedies besides litigation — McFadden ruled that House Democrats lacked standing. (FoxNews.com)
McFadden said there were means Democrats could take within their legislative powers to remedy this type of situation. “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.”
He continued: “The House retains the institutional tools necessary to remedy any harm caused to this power by the Administration’s actions. Its Members can, with a two-thirds majority, override the President’s veto of the resolution voiding the National Emergency Declaration. They did not. It can amend appropriations laws to expressly restrict the transfer or spending of funds for a border wall under Sections 284 and 2808. Indeed, it appears to be doing so.”
Lower courts are not in agreement over the issue, however. Last month, a federal judge in Oakland, Calif. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the reallocation of funds to cover construction in Yuma and El Paso.