WASHINGTON • The United States Supreme Court on Friday handed President Donald Trump a victory by letting his administration redirect US$2.5 billion (S$3.4 billion), in money approved by Congress for the Pentagon, to help build his promised wall along the US-Mexico border – even though lawmakers refused to provide funding.
The conservative-majority court ruled by five votes to four to block a ruling by a federal judge in California that barred the President from spending the money on the wall.
The wall, Mr Trump’s major campaign promise during the 2016 election, is fiercely opposed by Democrats.
“Wow! Big victory on the wall. The US Supreme Court overturns Lower Court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big win for border security and the rule of law!” Mr Trump tweeted just minutes after the court acted.
A brief order explaining the court’s decision said the government “made a sufficient showing” that the groups challenging the decision did not have grounds to bring a lawsuit.
In a highly unusual move, Mr Trump on Feb 15 declared a national emergency in a bid to fund the wall without congressional approval, an action Democrats said exceeded his powers under the US Constitution and usurped the authority of Congress.
The administration has said it plans to redirect US$6.7 billion from the departments of defence and treasury towards wall construction under the emergency declaration, after failing to convince Congress to provide the money, including the US$2.5 billion in Pentagon funding.
Congress earlier failed to provide US$5.7 billion in wall funding demanded by Mr Trump. The US President then triggered a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended in January.
The case arose from a challenge to Mr Trump’s action brought by Sierra Club, an environmental group, and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a group advocating for people living in border areas.
The challengers have said the wall would be disruptive to the environment, in part because it could worsen flooding problems and have a negative impact on wildlife.
US District Judge Haywood Gilliam ruled on May 30 in California that the administration’s proposal to build parts of the border wall in California, New Mexico and Arizona with money appropriated for the Defence Department to use in the fight against illegal drugs was unlawful.
The judge issued an injunction barring use of the Pentagon funds for a border wall. The administration asked that the injunction be put on hold pending an appeal, but the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals declined to do so.