During yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing, the president threatened to invoke a provision of the US Constitution that would allow himself to adjourn the US Congress and push through his own preferred nominees.
He said: “I have a very strong power. I’d rather not use that power, but we have way over a hundred people that we very badly need in this administration that should have been approved a long time ago.”
This provision has never been used before in the United States and would allow Trump to fill positions without confirmation from the Senate.
It appeared that even Trump himself was aware that he was pushing the boundaries of constitutional law as he said: “Perhaps it’s never been done before. Nobody’s even sure if it has. But we’re going to do it.”
The president claimed that the positions need to be urgently filled to assist with the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying:
The Federal government has ordered and shipped hundreds of millions of PPE items around the country. pic.twitter.com/bVD3SyuXas— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 15, 2020
“As the entire US government works to combat the global pandemic, it is absolutely essential that key positions at relevant federal agencies are fully staffed, and we’re not allowing that to take place through our Congress. They’re just not giving it to us. We have many positions that are unstaffed because we can’t get approval.”
Trump demanded that Republican leaders immediately call the Senate back into session to confirm his nominees or take a recess for an extended amount of time so that he could install temporary appointees without a vote – a process known as a recess appointment.
The House and Senate have both taken extended recesses in light of the coronavirus pandemic, assembling every few days for brief meetings to keep their chambers technically in session despite not carrying out any business.
This is routine procedure in the Senate to prevent presidents from making recess appointments but has angered Trump, who said:
“The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty the American people can’t afford during this crisis. It is a scam that they do.”
Shortly after Trump issued this threat on Wednesday, a spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel suggested that the Senate would likewise not adjourn.
He said: “Leader McConnell had a conversation today with the president to discuss Senate Democrats’ unprecedented obstruction of the president’s well-qualified nominees and shared his continued frustration with the process. The Leader pledged to find ways to confirm nominees considered mission-critical to the COVID-19 pandemic, but under Senate rules will take consent from Leader Schumer.”
This move comes just days after Trump claimed he has total authority over the states when it comes to lifting restrictions imposed by governors to fight the coronavirus pandemic, before later backing down.
He said on Monday: “When somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.” And after speaking about local governments, he said: “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”