SEATTLE (CN) – The state of Washington tried to convince a federal judge Thursday that the Trump administration’s plan to divert Pentagon funds for border wall construction is illegal and should be immediately stopped.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued this past September to block reprogramming of $3.6 billion in congressionally approved military construction projects, including $88 million for an addition to the Evergreen State’s Bangor submarine base, saying the state will lose millions in tax revenues.
Trump declared a national emergency in February 2019 to get money from the federal budget after Congress only approved $1.4 billion for the southern border wall construction.
Calling the funding decision an “unprecedented power grab,” Assistant Attorney General Andrew Hughes, representing the state, said the Trump administration is using the money to further domestic policy goals and not a national emergency as required by statute.
Hughes asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein to set aside the order seizing the funds in its entirety, not just Washington state’s portion.
“Some of the funds have already been transferred,” Rothstein said. “Are you suggesting I undo that?”
Hughes replied there is no basis to permit the federal government to continue funding projects that violate the Constitution. He said a narrow, Washington-specific injunction would not stop the illegal seizure of funds.
Andrew Warden, representing the Justice Department, argued Washington state has no standing to bring suit based on “hypothetical loss of future tax revenues.”
Hughes countered that the state taxes federal contractors directly, so financial damages are accountable.
He said without a vacatur or injunction, Washington state faces irreparable economic harm.
“Vacatur is a new twist,” Rothstein said, and asked both sides for additional time past a Feb. 1 deadline to consider the matter.
“You’ll get a better order,” she said, promising a decision by March 1.
While Washington state’s lawsuit takes a different tack, the fight against Trump’s national emergency declaration to pay for the border wall has not gone well. This month, the Fifth Circuit lifted a federal judge’s block of the $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds.
In 2019, a bill to block the money passed the House but failed to clear the Senate – though it certainly would have been vetoed by Trump in any case.