Donald Trump is threatening to use a never-before-employed power of his office to adjourn both chambers of Congress so he can make “recess appointments” to fill vacant positions within his administration he says Senate Democrats are keeping empty amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Trump opened his daily virus press conference on Wednesday by griping about Senate Democrats blocking tens of his nominees, alleging many otherwise would be working on virus-related efforts. He offered few specifics, however, on how the federal virus response might be different if a substantial amount of those individuals had been approved by the upper chamber.
Article II, Section 3, Clause 3 of the US Constitution gives a president the power to adjourn both chambers if they cannot agree on an adjourn date. No chief executive, however, has ever used it.
The president said he would prefer “not doing” the adjournment order, but feels strongly he “needs” to make some appointments.
Both chambers have been meeting in so-called pro forma sessions, though with almost no legislators present.
On the Senate side, doing so blocks a president from making recess appointments.
Curiously, it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, who controls the chamber’s calendar. He began holding pro formas early in Mr Trump’s term to block just that: recess appointments, opting to ensure his chamber would have a say in vetting potential Trump administration officials.
Notably, Mr Trump falsely said he had pushed over 445 federal judges through the Senate confirmation process. The real number is closer to 200.
Meantime, Mr Trump has been panned by Democrats and some health experts about the federal government not setting up a comprehensive testing program. On Tuesday night, he tried to shift blame on testing to governors; the next night, he said “we’re not going to run a parking lot” typically used by shoppers going to big-box retailers, for instance, “from Washington, DC.”