United States House of Representatives v. Mnuchin, No. 19-5176 (D.C. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The House filed suit alleging that the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the Treasury, and the Interior, and the Secretaries of those departments violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when transferring funds appropriated for other uses to finance the construction of a physical barrier along the southern border of the United States, contravening congressionally approved appropriations. The district court held that the House lacked standing to challenge defendants' actions because it failed to allege a legally cognizable injury.
The DC Circuit vacated the district court's judgment insofar as it dismisses the constitutional claims. In Comm. on Judiciary of U.S. House of Representatives v. McGahn, 968 F.3d 755 (D.C. Cir. 2020), the court clearly held that a single house of Congress could have standing to pursue litigation against the Executive for injury to its legislative rights. In this case, the allegations are that the Executive interfered with the prerogative of a single chamber to limit spending under the two-string theory discussed at the time of the founding era. Therefore, the court concluded that each chamber has a distinct individual right and one chamber has a distinct injury. Accordingly, that chamber has standing to bring this litigation. The court stated that expenditures made without the House's approval—or worse, as alleged here, in the face of its specific disapproval—cause a concrete and particularized constitutional injury that the House experiences, and can seek redress for, independently. The court further stated that failure to recognize that injury in fact would fundamentally alter the separation of powers by allowing the Executive Branch to spend any funds the Senate is on board with, even if the House withheld its authorizations.
The court affirmed the district court's judgment insofar as it dismisses the APA claims where those allegations in no way set forth a legislative injury distinct to the House and affording it standing. The court previously explained that Congress does not have standing to litigate a claim that the President has exceeded his statutory authority.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on March 13, 2020.