Pigeons fly near a prototype section of a U.S.-Mexico border wall in San Diego. (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

House Democrats Sue to Block Spending on Trump's Border Wall

(Bloomberg) -- The Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives sued to block President Donald Trump from tapping as much as $8.1 billion for the start of construction of a wall along the nation’s southern border, saying Congress never authorized the expenditure.

“Even the monarchs of England long ago lost the power to raise and spend money without the approval of Parliament,” the Democrats said in a complaint filed in Washington.

The lawsuit capped a flurry of legal activity by opponents of Trump’s February declaration of a national emergency meant to give the president access to funding previously denied him by lawmakers. The standoff over the money triggered a record 35-day partial shutdown of the U.S. government and to Trump’s first-ever veto, after lawmakers passed a resolution disapproving of his emergency proclamation.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the Congressional suit.

On Thursday, the Sierra Club and then a 20-state coalition escalated their fights against the wall construction with requests to U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, California, for an immediate order blocking the administration from diverting money, mostly from military budgets, to fund wall projects.

The president’s “disregard of the will of Congress and violation of fundamental separation of powers principles," is at the core of the request for a preliminary injunction, the states said. "Congress unequivocally rejected the president’s requested appropriation for a border wall, only for the president to then order the diversion of federal funds from other sources toward the very project that Congress rejected."

Trump’s emergency declaration is the subject of at least five separate lawsuits. The Justice Department fired back at two of them earlier this week, saying in a court filing that they “raise political questions that courts are not equipped to answer” and should be thrown out.

Trump declared the southern border emergency after Congressional Democrats refused to provide $5.6 billion in funding as he demanded, sparking the shutdown. Congress later allocated $1.4 billion for border security.

The Democrats are attempting to block the March 25 reallocation of $1 billion originally earmarked for spending on the military and any subsequent transfers, and also want a judge to declare the transfers unconstitutional.

The president has defended the decree as needed to stanch the flow of Central American migrants into the U.S. from Mexico. His administration hasn’t formally responded to the cases before Gilliam, an appointee of former President Barack Obama.

The states asking for an immediate injunction include California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.

“We must immediately put a stop to this process to prevent the irreparable harm a southern wall would inflict on border communities and our nation,” Dror Ladin, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. The ACLU sued along with the Sierra Club.

The lawmakers’ case is House of Representatives v. Mnuchin, 19-cv-969, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). The Oakland cases are Sierra Club v. Trump, 19-cv-892, U.S District Court, Northern District of California and California v. Trump, 3:19-cv-00872, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

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