There were likely big celebrations at the White House Friday night as the Supreme Court gave the green light for the Trump administration to use $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds to build parts of the wall along the Mexican border. In a 5-4 ruling, the court’s conservative justices overturned a lower court decision and said the administration could begin using the money while the case proceeds.
Even though the ruling was only one paragraph long, the conservative justices hinted pretty clearly they would likely side with the administration in the future by saying that those challenging the White House use of the funds didn’t seem to have a right to do so. On the opposite end, three of the four more liberal justices on the court—Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—said they would have blocked the funds for now. Justice Stephen Breyer, meanwhile, said he would have allowed preparatory work but not actual construction that would be difficult to undo if the White House lost the case further down the line.
The decision overturns a lower court decision that said the funds could not be transferred out of the Pentagon while the legal challenges were ongoing. The move marks a turning point for a case that really originated after dispute over wall funding led to the longest partial government shutdown in history. The shutdown ended in February when Congress agreed to give the administration $1.4 billion in wall funding, which was far less than the $5.7 billion the White House was seeking. Trump then declared a national emergency that would allow him to use money from other parts of the government. That’s when the ACLU sued on behalf of two advocacy groups, the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, to stop the use of the funds.
The ruling gave Trump a boost to push along on one of his signature campaign promises. The president took to Twitter Friday night to celebrate. “Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed,” Trump wrote. “Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the ruling allowing Trump “to steal military funds to spend on a wasteful, ineffective border wall rejected by Congress is deeply flawed.” She added: “Our Founders designed a democracy governed by the people — not a monarchy.”
Alexei Woltornist, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said that the government was “pleased that the Supreme Court recognized that the lower courts should not have halted construction of walls on the southern border. We will continue to vigorously defend the administration’s efforts to protect our nation.” The ACLU, meanwhile, blasted the decision and vowed to press on with its legal challenge. “This is not over,” Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said. “We will be asking the federal appeals court to expedite the ongoing appeals proceeding to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall.”