Along with much of the rest of the country, Capitol Hill has largely been shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the Senate can’t confirm President Donald Trump’s appointments to federal office. Congress also hasn’t formally adjourned, however, meaning the positions can’t be filled via a so-called “recess appointment,” either.
But enough is enough — and now, the president is warning that he may go rogue to get things done in Washington. The Hill reports that during a White House press briefing Wednesday, Trump threatened to force Congress to adjourn so he can move forward, saying, according to a White House transcript, that their “political games” have “prevented [him] from using the constitutional authority…that we’re given under the recess provisions.”
“The Senate should either fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees or it should formally adjourn so I can make recess appointments,” Trump said, adding later:
If the House will not agree to that adjournment, I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress.
“It’s a scam”
Trump complained Wednesday that members of the Senate have “left Washington until at least May 4.”
“The Constitution provides a mechanism for the president to fill positions in such circumstances — the ‘recess appointment,’ it’s called,” Trump explained, according to the White House’s transcript. But he said “the Senate’s practice of dabbling into so-called pro forma sessions where no one is even there” has prevented him from exercising that authority.
“The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis,” the president said. “It is a scam, what they do. It’s a scam, and everybody knows it. And it’s been that way for a long time.”
Desperate times, desperate measures
As The Hill pointed out, “Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution grants Trump the power to ‘on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper.'” They further reported, however, that according to the National Constitution Center, “no president has ever exercised” that authority.
In his remarks, Trump acknowledged that the move would be unprecedented, but insisted that the current circumstances warrant it.
“Perhaps it’s never been done before, nobody’s even sure if it has,” the president said, according to the White House’s transcript. “But we’re going to do it. We need these people here. We need people for this crisis, and we don’t want to play any more political games.”
Roadblocks and wasted time
The Hill reported Wednesday that the plan drew criticism, including from constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley, who appeared last year as a Republican witness during House’s impeachment hearings against Trump.
“The [p]resident just said that he may unilaterally adjourn Congress,” the George Washington University Law School professor tweeted following the president’s remarks. “This seems to be a reference to Article II, Section 3, which gives a president in ‘extraordinary occasions’ to convene or adjourn the Houses. This power has never been used and should not be used now.”
But as President Trump pointed out Wednesday, when it comes to Congress, all he ever gets it “roadblocks.” It’s time those in Washington stop wasting Americans’ time.