Border Wall Lawsuit

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle sits near the wall as President Donald Trump visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in El Centro, California, on April 5. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Trump administration to spend billions on a wall across the southern border, although the project doesn’t have congressional authorization.

The high court ruled 5-4 that the government had made a “sufficient showing at this stage” that environmental groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union don’t have a right to challenge the funding in court.

That doesn’t mean that transfer is legal, but it does mean it can move ahead. Renewed challenges may not be possible before the money is spent.

President Trump and his supporters celebrated the news. The wall was part of Trump’s 2016 campaign platform, which was stymied by Democrats in Congress. The full promise was that Mexico would pay for the wall; but, at least for now, it will come from money that was supposed to go to Defense Department projects, including some in Oklahoma.

Whether or not the wall is a good idea, using emergency rules to wire around what can’t be accomplished through political processes is bad policy.

The Constitution explains how the U.S. spends money. Bills must be approved by both chambers of Congress and signed by the president.

Congress has provided that in emergencies the president can move money around, but it’s hard to see how not being able to get sufficient votes in Congress translates into the sort of national emergency envisioned by that law.

Many are convinced that the high number of asylum-seeking refugees at the southern border in recent months is an emergency. Perhaps it is, but not one that we don’t have time to address through the appropriations process and not one that is particularly well addressed by a wall.

Invoking emergency rules to do what you can’t do by constitutionally solid appropriations processes is bad policy. Those celebrating today need to consider what they will think about this sort of convenient emergency when someone else is president.

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