Last month, Federal District Court Judge David Briones did what so many penny-ante judges before him have done during the Trump Era – he declared himself arbiter of national law and blocked the Trump administration from using Pentagon funds to build the border wall. In his ruling, Congress had the final word when they appropriated only $1.375 billion to the Department of Homeland Security for border wall construction. And since they did that, Briones said, they had simultaneously blocked any other federal agency from using money to pay for it.
The Trump administration rejected that logic, appealing the decision under the grounds that agencies like the Defense Department enjoy the freedom to spent their own appropriations as they see fit. And while the final ruling on that logic has not yet been reached, a ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday stayed the previous injunction and will allow the Trump administration to move forward with construction.
All told, the court’s new 2-1 ruling will free the administration to use $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build and repair pieces of the wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. The court was quiet about the reasons for its stay, but it did note that there was a “substantial likelihood” that the suing parties – the county of El Paso and the Border Network for Human Rights – did not have standing to sue the administration.
“Breaking News: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just reversed a lower court decision & gave us the go ahead to build one of the largest sections of the desperately needed Southern Border Wall, Four Billion Dollars. Entire Wall is under construction or getting ready to start!” tweeted President Trump in response to the decision.
The president and the Defense Department have publicly said that they plan to build 450 miles of new border wall before the November elections. Skeptics have cast doubts about that timeframe, citing a host of legal and regulatory challenges that the administration will have to overcome. But if Trump can continue to win victories like this one and build even a fraction of that amount by the election, he will have a great deal to show his supporters when it comes time for votes to be cast.