Forty Senators Seek GAO Ruling on Infringement of Congress’ Constitutional Power of the Purse

Amid the rapidly escalating crisis along the southern border, U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today joined Republican colleagues to challenge President Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification.

Wicker and Hyde-Smith are among 40 Republican Senators who signed a letter to Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro that seeks affirmation of the Biden administration’s violation of the Impoundment Control Act.

“On January 20th, in one of the first official acts of his presidency, Joseph Biden suspended border wall construction and ordered a freeze of funds provided by Congress for that purpose,” the Senators wrote.  “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 a blatant violation of federal law and infringe on Congress’s constitutional power of the purse.

“We write regarding these actions.  We believe they violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), as interpreted by your office, and we request your legal opinion on the matter. Prompt action to end these violations is required to restore order at the border,” the Senators said.

Currently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is overwhelmed and overcapacity.  Reports indicate that nearly all Border Patrol sectors are above 100 percent capacity, with some sectors double, triple, or even at significantly higher levels of overcapacity.

The broadening border crisis represents a stark contrast to Trump Administration policies to secure the southern border with new infrastructure.

For example, illegal crossings in the Yuma Sector decreasing by 87 percent from FY2019 to FY2020 in areas with new border wall system.  In the Rio Grande Valley Zone 1, an area that did not previously have border infrastructure, CBP experienced a 79 percent decrease in apprehensions and a 26 percent decrease in narcotics seizures after completion of the border wall.  In El Paso Zone 14 and 15, CBP saw 60 percent and 81 percent decreases in apprehensions, respectively, when comparing the second half of FY2020 to the first half of FY2020.

Since President Biden’s election in November 2020, CBP numbers have increased significantly.  In February 2021, CBP had 100,441 border encounters, a 39 percent increase from 71,946 encounters in October 2020 and a 173 percent increase from the 36,687 encounters in February 2020—just one year prior.  Additionally, there have been 325,012 border encounters since November 2020, while there were only 220,563 in the four months prior—a 68 percent increase.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, spearheaded the letter.

In addition to Wicker and Hyde-Smith, who serves the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, the letter was also signed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as well as Senators Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Haggerty (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Kennedy (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).

Read the full text of the letter here.

Press Release

3/17/2021