Washington: United States President Trump has threatened to use his executive power to force both chambers of Congress to adjourn if the Senate did not confirm his nominees for vacancies across the administration.
“The Senate should either fulfil its duty and vote on my nominees or it should formally adjourn so I can make recess appointments,” the President said during a press briefing at the White House on Wednesday.
“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.”
Lawmakers in both chambers were not expected to return to the Capitol until early May due to the coronavirus pandemic but they have been conducting pro forma sessions to make it impossible for Trump to make recess appointments.
Out of 749 “key positions” that require Senate confirmation, 150 do not have nominees, while 15 are awaiting nomination, according to a tracker provided by The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service.
If the Senate isn’t officially in session, the President does have the power to appoint officers directly using his recess appointments powers.
The US Constitution also grants the President the power to adjourn both chambers of Congress “to such time as he shall think proper”.
“No president has ever exercised” the authority, noted the National Constitution Center.
“Perhaps it’s never been done before, nobody’s even sure if it has,” Trump said on Wednesday.
“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.”
Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University who had testified last year against Trump’s impeachment, warned the President against taking the step.
“The Trump said that he may unilaterally adjourn Congress… This power has never been used and should not be used now,” Turley wrote on Twitter.
“The power to adjourn only applies ‘in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment’… I have long been a critic of such recess appointments,” he said.
“A pandemic should not be an invitation for pandemonium.”
In the city of Washington, the seat of Congress and the White House, a stay-at-home order issued by Mayor is in place until May 15.