WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives sued President Donald Trump's administration on Friday over the president's national emergency declaration to build a wall on the southern border.
In their complaint, filed in federal district court in Washington, DC, Democrats named Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Acting Secretary of the Department of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and their corresponding departments.
President Donald Trump declared the national emergency in February in an attempt to stitch together money to build the wall. Democrats have long argued this is an unconstitutional expansion of presidential powers, by taking money Congress already dedicated to other programs to build a wall Congress has repeatedly rejected. Both the House and Senate passed a resolution that would reject the national emergency declaration, but were unable to overcome Trump’s veto.
House Democrats had left the door open to legal action if the resolution failed.
“The House will once again defend our Democracy and our Constitution, this time in the courts,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Thursday. “No one is above the law or the Constitution, not even the President.”
Democrats are asking a judge to declare that the transfer of $1 billion in March from defense funds for border wall construction was unconstitutional, and to block any future transfers from the different pools of money Trump intends to tap. They argue the administration's plans violate the Appropriations Clause and run afoul of Congress' authority to decide how federal money is spent.
The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, made up of House leadership from both parties, voted to authorize the lawsuit, Pelosi’s statement said.
“We authorized,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told BuzzFeed News after votes on Thursday. “I presume we’ll follow through on that.”
There are already multiple lawsuits in federal courts across the country challenging Trump’s declaration of a national emergency and his plan to access billions of dollars outside of the congressional appropriations process to fund border wall construction. Legal advocacy group Public Citizen was first in court, filing suit hours after Trump announced the emergency declaration in a Rose Garden ceremony Feb. 15.
A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, brought a lawsuit the following week, and other cases were filed in the days and weeks after Trump’s announcement by environmental groups, landowners along the US–Mexico border, and the city of El Paso, Texas.
No judge has ruled on the substance of these challenges to date.
Congress designated $1.375 billion for border barrier construction earlier this year. Trump’s plan would involve reprogramming an additional $2.5 billion from Department of Defense counter-drug efforts, $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, and $3.6 billion in military construction funds. Accessing the military construction money required the declaration of a national emergency; tapping the other sources of funds did not.
This article has been updated to state House Democrats sued the administration on Friday.