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Process Matters: Trump’s Wall Funding Hits Another Legal Ruling

August 7, 2020

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Readers to this blog know that I am a process democrat.  I firmly believe that the manner in which governing takes place is the ultimate test of a republic.  When a president uses his executive office to tap into funds and uses them for purposes not allocated by congress that is an over-reach and abuse of the process of governing.

Therefore I was pleased today to learn that a federal appeals court ruled that House Democrats can proceed with a lawsuit over Donald Trump’s diversion of $2.5 billion in Pentagon funding to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The entire mess started over Trump’s scheme to free up additional funding for his wall. There was a  congressional spending bill that allocated $1.3 billion for border security, but which fell far short of the nearly $5 billion Trump demanded.  In a tantrum, Trump then reallocated $2.5 billion in funding that Congress appropriated for defense and military uses.

That is when the needed lawsuits started.  Your high school civics teacher would concur.

Readers are very aware of the way this blogger views the xenophobic nature of Trump and the multitude of reasons as to why the wall is a stain on the ideals our country holds, along with the unsound financial strains such construction would demand.  But more than those reasons comes my conviction about the process of governing needing to be respected.

So I applauded the 7-2 decision when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that lawmakers have the legal right to sue the Trump administration over a financing maneuver that a separate California-based federal appeals court found to be an illegal encroachment of Congress’s power of the purse.

We do not need to separate into our tribal divisions to recognize the lessons of civics from our youth, or the varied examples as to why such a process demands to be placed on our way of governing.  

We all—Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives–should agree that the ruling is proper.  We all should endorse Congress’s right to pursue legal action to enforce its authority over federal appropriations.

Following this case can get murky, and I grant the fact many eyes will glass over as I add the outcome from the Supreme Court,  which has allowed the Trump administration to continue using the defense funds amid ongoing litigation, despite the California-based court’s ruling that the scheme is unconstitutional.  So one can argue the road ahead is uncertain in terms of the outcome if Democrats ultimately prevail in their lawsuit.

But for me and hopefully you–the call for shining a light on the process of governing and the court decision today underscores what we know to be right.  Apart from the high court ruling last week there is a related challenge initiated by House Democrats.  That case had been focused on a more preliminary question concerning the separation of powers, which the D.C. Circuit’s Friday decision appeared to resolve by ruling that Democrats were not barred from pursuing legal action against the administration.

I know these battles may seem far away, and not very important but they are germane to the very core of what makes a nation of laws.  When those laws and processes are discarded or tossed aside the very structure of our government starts to lose credibility and we as citizens are the losers.

Process matters.

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