July 16, 2021

Smith Urges Legal Action Against Biden Administration for Cancelling Border Wall, Presses Administration for Transparency on Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Budget Committee Republican Leader Jason Smith (MO-08) sent a letter to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) calling for legal action against the Biden Administration for failing to adhere to federal law by freezing congressionally-appropriated funds for border wall construction projects, in violation of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (ICA).

In a second letter sent concurrently, Smith pressed the Biden Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on how the Administration intends to spend the nearly $1.4 billion in funding appropriated by Congress for border wall construction projects. Since January, when funding for border wall construction was halted, illegal immigration has skyrocketed to a 21-year high – resulting in a humanitarian and national security crisis at America’s southern border.

“When President Biden froze funding for the border wall on his first day in office, he violated the ICA and broke trust with the American people. If left unchecked, this abuse of power will set a dangerous precedent that Congress’s Constitutional authority and the will of the American people can be discarded,” said House Budget Committee Republican Leader Smith. “Each day that passes while the Administration fails to prioritize border security, the humanitarian and national security crisis we are witnessing worsens. Now is the time for States to take immediate action to protect the integrity of our borders by holding President Biden accountable. At the same time, the Administration owes the American people and Congress better transparency regarding its actions with border wall funding.”

In a recently issued opinion on President Biden’s decision to abandon the border wall, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated that DHS may delay obligation of funds in order to first comply with statutory requirements under environmental laws before obligating funds. However, recent reports and statements by the Administration suggest that these border wall construction funds will ultimately never be spent for their intended purpose as provided by law, and that wall expansion will be ended.

“With $1.375 billion of DHS’s fiscal year 2021 appropriation for a border barrier remaining unobligated and available for 5 years, it is imperative that the Administration provide Congress with detailed information and a timeline explaining how and when it intends to apportion and obligate these appropriated funds. This is necessary to ensure transparency and accountability regarding how the American people’s tax dollars will be spent and to ensure they are being spent pursuant to Congressional intent,” wrote Smith in the letter to DHS and OMB.

In his letter to NAAG, Smith points out that the GAO acknowledged that President Biden announced a “policy choice” when he froze border wall funding, which GAO ruled was a violation of the ICA when former President Trump temporarily withheld aid to Ukraine.

“Given GAO’s apparent reversal of its previously held position that a policy choice constitutes a violation of the ICA, and inconsistent legal interpretations of the ICA when presented with similar fact patterns, there is a need for independent judicial determination on this matter,” wrote Smith to the NAAG.

Read the letter to the National Association of Attorneys General here.

Read the letter to OMB and DHS here.