WASHINGTON -- Trump administration officials want the Supreme Court to help them hurry up and spend up to $2.5 billion to construct a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border before Congress thwarts them with new spending legislation on Oct. 1.
The administration argues it needs a ruling from the Supreme Court by July 26 so it can spend money on border wall construction before the fiscal 2019 spending law lapses on Sept. 30.
It's an argument that a federal appeals court shot down earlier this month. Challengers to the wall construction say it has never been tried before. And the Democratic-led House filed a brief Friday arguing the Supreme Court should not rush because Congress says how federal funds are spent.
In its brief, the House argues the Trump administration "will still have the funds it seeks after Sept. 30 if Congress -- the only body that can decide how federal funds should be spent -- decides that public money should be spent as the Administration wishes."
The government transferred the funds at issue into a Defense Department account earlier this year, part of President Donald Trump's plan to outmaneuver Congress by shifting around existing federal funds to build barriers along the southern border.
Trump made the moves after Congress turned down his full $5.7 billion request for construction funds in a February spending showdown that resulted in the longest partial government shutdown to date.
But a federal district court blocked that effort amid a legal challenge about whether the administration has the authority to shift funds.
The Defense Department says "the remaining unobligated funds will become unavailable" after Sept. 30, and it "will be unable to complete the projects as planned," the Justice Department said in its application to the court.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in a July 3 ruling, said that argument actually illustrates the weakness in the Trump administration's case.
"Defendants' rush to spend this money is necessarily driven by their understanding that Congress did not appropriate requested funding for these purposes in the current budget and their expectation that Congress will not authorize that spending in the next fiscal year, either," the 9th Circuit ruling states.