An appeals court on Wednesday upheld a freeze on Pentagon money to build a border wall with Mexico, casting doubt on President Trump's ability to make good on a signature campaign promise before the 2020 election. A divided three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco agreed with a lower court ruling that prevented the government from tapping Defense Department counterdrug money to build high-priority sections of wall in Arizona, California, and New Mexico, the AP reports. The decision is a setback for Trump's ambitious plans. He ended a 35-day government shutdown in February after Congress gave him far less than he wanted. He then declared a national emergency that the White House said would free billions of dollars from the Pentagon.
The case may still be considered, but the administration cannot build during the legal challenge. The public interest "is best served by respecting the Constitution's assignment of the power of the purse to Congress," wrote Judges Michelle Friedland, a Barack Obama appointee, and Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee. A freeze imposed by US District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of Oakland in May prevented work on two Pentagon-funded wall contracts—one spanning 46 miles n New Mexico and another covering 5 miles in Yuma, Arizona. Gilliam went a step further Friday by ruling definitively that the administration couldn't use Pentagon counterdrug money for the two projects covered in his May order or to replace 63 miles in the Border Patrol's Tucson, Arizona, sector and 15 miles in its El Centro, California, sector.
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