President Trump is reportedly considering a decision to flex his constitutional authority to temporarily suspend congressional sessions.
During the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House Wednesday, Trump described the pro forma sessions Congress was currently using as a “scam.” These sessions feature at least one member of Congress opening up the chamber only to then close it—despite nearly all members being back home in their respective districts. This process allows the chambers to prevent Trump from getting more constitutional authority. Should they remain out of session for an extended duration, the Constitution allows the president certain additional governing authority.
One of those additional powers comes in the form of the president being able to make “recess appointments,” or the naming of judges while Congress is unable to convene. This expedites the process that would otherwise include Congress voting to confirm the appointments.
“The Senate should either fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees or it should formally adjourn so I can make recess appointments,” the president said from the Rose Garden, BizPac Review reports.
He continued: “We have a tremendous number of people that have to come into government. And now more so than ever before because of the virus and the problem.”
Trump described the sneaky (though regular) means of circumventing their requirement to convene as a “dereliction of duty” and said he could order them to stop.
“The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people can not afford during this crisis,” Trump 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.”
BizPac Review adds:
The president threatened to use the never-before implemented executive authority to dismiss both the Senate and the House, arguing that this moment of national crisis due to the coronavirus is even more reason his appointees need to be confirmed.
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“Perhaps it’s never been done before, nobody’s even sure if it has,” Trump said. “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.”
US presidents have been given the authority to adjourn Congress on “extraordinary occasions,” according to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution:
“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, 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; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”