The halt of the construction of the wall, one of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises, brought with it an unexpected setback: the freezing of billions of dollars earmarked for its construction could be illegal.
In the midst of an immigration crisis on the southern border of the United States, the Biden-Harris administration faces another problem after the resolution to halt construction on the border with Mexico, since it would be interfering with the functions of Congress. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating the legality of the Democratic administration’s decision regarding the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
A Politico report notes that “on Tuesday, Charles Young, head of public affairs for the GAO, confirmed that they were investigating whether Biden was legally authorized to halt construction because the funding had already been approved.”
According to the media outlet, “Congress approved nearly $1.4 billion in border wall funding in December 2020 for fiscal year 2021, as part of an old $900 billion stimulus package.”
The GAO initiated the investigation after 40 Republican senators, led by Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), wrote to the Office arguing that the President’s order contributed to a “humanitarian and national security crisis” in reference to what is happening on the southern border.
“On January 20, in one of the first official acts of his presidency, Joseph Biden suspended construction of the border wall and ordered a freeze on funding provided by Congress for that purpose,” the senators stated in the letter. “In the weeks that followed, operational control of our southern border was compromised and a humanitarian and national security crisis has ensued. The President’s actions directly contributed to this unfortunate, yet entirely avoidable, scenario. They are also in blatant violation of federal law and infringe on the constitutional power of Congress.”
“We are writing to them regarding these actions. We believe they violate the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), as interpreted by your office, and we request your legal opinion on the matter. Swift action is required to end these violations to restore order at the border,” the senators asked the GAO.
For now, halting construction of the wall is more of a political than a legal issue
Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, told Politico that the president spent a lot of time serving as a lawmaker and that “he knows that Congress’ job is to authorize how the money is spent and the President’s job is to spend it efficiently.”
Moore Capito’s proposal was joined by more than 60 Republican representatives and four other senators last Tuesday. All of them are requesting the GAO’s opinion regarding the legitimacy of Biden’s decision to halt construction of the wall.
According to the Politico report, “Biden is not likely to face formal punishment,” even if the GAO were to determine that halting construction of the wall is illegal or exceeds the powers of the executive branch.
The pressures and criticisms surrounding the Biden-Harris administration’s handling of the border crisis, coupled with the administration’s potential responsibility for the immigration crisis, place the Democratic mandate in a delicate situation going forward.