Court revives House's challenge of Trump wall funding

FILE - In this June 23, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump tours a section of the border wall in San Luis, Ariz. While Mexico never did pay for the big, beautiful wall Trump pledged to build along the southern border  the signature promise of his 2016 campaign  the project is now under way, with 450 miles expected to be completed by the end of December (only a fraction of that, however, has been built along stretches where no barrier stood before.) (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this June 23, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump tours a section of the border wall in San Luis, Ariz. While Mexico never did pay for the big, beautiful wall Trump pledged to build along the southern border the signature promise of his 2016 campaign the project is now under way, with 450 miles expected to be completed by the end of December (only a fraction of that, however, has been built along stretches where no barrier stood before.) (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

HOUSTON – A federal appeals court on Friday revived a House challenge of President Donald Trump’s use of Defense Department money to build a border wall after Democrats refused to provide funding he requested.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed a lower court’s dismissal of the House Democrats’ lawsuit. The appeals panel cited the House's argument that it was cut out of its “constitutionally indispensable legislative role” when Trump unilaterally moved about $8 billion to border wall construction.

Congress’ power to appropriate spending “is a core structural protection of the Constitution — a wall, so to speak, between the branches of government that prevents encroachment of the House’s and Senate’s power of the purse,” the panel wrote.

The case now returns to the court of U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, who had initially ruled that House Democrats lacked the authority to sue in April 2019. McFadden wrote that the House's lawsuit was about trying to “conscript the Judiciary in a political turf war with the President over the implementation of legislation.”

The Justice Department did not immediately comment.

House Democrats sued three months after the end of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, triggered by Trump's demand for border wall funding.

The president later signed a funding bill that included $1.4 billion for border barriers, short of the $5.7 billion he had demanded from Congress. But he then declared a national emergency to secure billions more in funding denied by Democrats controlling the House, in part by taking money for military housing and counterdrug programs.

The move triggered several legal challenges, including the one by House Democrats. Another appeals court ruled in June against the transfer of money from military construction projects. But the U.S. Supreme Court in July declined to order wall construction stopped while the case continued. The high court's four liberal justices dissented. One of those four, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died Sept. 18.