CRS Issues Report on Repurposing Funds to Build a Border Wall

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The Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report that examines the federal statutes that the Trump Administration has cited to repurpose funds from existing appropriations to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. CRS also discussed multiple lawsuits that have been filed challenging the Administration’s actions.

Congress appropriated $1.375 billion to the Department of Homeland Security for the border wall instead of the $5.7 billion that President Trump had originally requested. In response, the President announced that his Administration would divert funds from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of the Treasury to pay for the wall’s construction.

According to the October 2, 2019 CRS report, the Trump Administration claimed that the funding transfers were authorized under a combination of federal laws and emergency authorities. These include the National Emergencies Act (NEA) and sections of the 2019 DOD Appropriations Act that provide funding for military counterdrug activities.

In February 2019, the President declared the border situation a national emergency under the NEA. That declaration enabled him to shift $3.6 billion from military construction projects to finance the wall’s construction beyond what was allowed through regular congressional authorizations.

The U.S. House of Representatives, various states and citizen groups have filed lawsuits in federal courts in Texas, California and the District of Columbia arguing that the Administration’s repurposing of funds was unconstitutional, and that such efforts violated existing laws that require federal funds to be spent only for the objectives specified by Congress.

After the CRS report’s publication, a Texas federal judge characterized President Trump’s national emergency declaration as unlawful. The Court ruled that the President had overstepped his authority in diverting military funds for the wall’s construction. The lawsuit was filed by Border Network for Human Rights and El Paso County, Texas.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court stayed a California court’s ruling that blocked the President from reallocating the money for border wall construction, resulting in DOD use of transferred funds for the wall amid ongoing litigation in the case.