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House moves closer to suing Trump over national emergency declaration

Washington — The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives moved closer to filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the president's controversial national emergency declaration, which is already being challenged in court by a group of state attorneys general.

In a 3-2 vote along party lines Thursday, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), a little-known group which directs the House's general counsel to undertake legal actions, authorized a lawsuit against President Trump for violating the Constitution's Appropriations Clause, which grants Congress the power of the purse. The five-member board comprises House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise. 

"The House will once again defend our Democracy and our Constitution, this time in the courts," Pelosi wrote in a statement. "No one is above the law or the Constitution, not even the President."

While the lawsuit has not yet been filed, the decision to authorize it represents Democrats' latest effort to overturn the president's proclamation, which the White House believes allows Mr. Trump to unilaterally access billions of dollars in funds to build his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The president issued the declaration in February after Congress approved spending legislation with only $1.375 billion in funding for 55 miles of physical border barriers. 

The proclamation was quickly challenged by a multi-state lawsuit by a coalition of attorneys general from 20 states who called the White House's unprecedented move "unlawful and unconstitutional."

Congressional Democrats also tried to overturn the declaration through a resolution of disapproval which passed both the House and Senate with some Republican support, but was vetoed by the president. An effort to override the veto last week was unsuccessful, as House GOP leadership managed to minimize the number of defections. 

The president has recently escalated his rhetoric on immigration, threatening to shut down the southern border and vowing to cut all foreign aid to the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — where most of the migrants heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border are from.

Critics of the move believe a halt in U.S. aid to the region, known the as the "Northern Triangle," which is mostly provided to non-profits and NGOs, will impede efforts to curb the widespread poverty, violence, corruption and climate change displacement in the region — and prompt more irregular migration towards the U.S.

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report. 

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