The Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Trump administration to tap Pentagon funds to build sections of a border wall with Mexico.
The Supreme Court said Friday that it would lift a freeze on the money put in place by a lower court. The Supreme Court's action means the Trump administration can tap the funds and begin work on four contracts it has awarded. Four liberal justices wouldn't have allowed construction to start.
Justice Breyer who dissented in part, wrote that the court had to assess the competing claims in considering whether it would grant a stay of the lower court's freeze. Granting the stay might "cause irreparable harm to the environment," while denying it could irreparably harm the government. He would have allowed the construction contracts to be finalized but not the construction. The administration had claimed that if failed to finalize its contracts for construction before Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year, the funds would be returned to the Treasury.
The Justice Department welcomed the decision — spokesperson Alexei Woltornist said in a statement that the department was "pleased that the Supreme Court recognized that the lower courts should not have halted construction of walls on the southern border."
A trial court initially froze the funds in May and an appeals court kept that freeze in place earlier this month. The freeze had prevented the government from tapping approximately $2.5 billion in Defense Department money to replace existing sections of barrier in Arizona, California and New Mexico with more robust fencing.
Paula Reid contributed to this report.