Trump threatens to suspend Congress so he can make appointments without Senate approval
The president accuses the legislators of the blockade, which do not meet due to the distancing measures due to the pandemic.
President Trump opens a new front in the midst of the crisis of the coronavirus: Congress. In his press conference this Wednesday, he has threatened to suspend the two houses of the Capitol in order to force the appointment of positions that the Democrats oppose, evading the mandatory approval of the Senate.
Trump accuses Congress of “obstructing” his competence to appoint judges and other charges by continuing to hold his pro forma sessions. “If we cannot act to name those people that we need, and that we especially need due to the pandemic, I am going to do something that I would rather not do,” he warned.
It is a constitutional power that no president has ever used. According to section 3 of Article II of the Magna Carta, “on extraordinary occasions” the President may “suspend the two chambers, or one of them, in case of disagreement between them regarding the time of the suspension.” So that Trump could do it, therefore, the Senate and the House of Representatives, with the first Republican majority and the second Democratic, should disagree on the terms of the suspension.
During his daily appearance before journalists, which was held on the White House grounds this Wednesday, Trump has accused Democratic senators of blocking his appointments. The truth is that there are 165 vacancies in federal government positions that require confirmation by the Senate, according to a count by The Washington Post. For 150 of them, Trump has not designated anyone and only 15 are pending confirmation by the Senate.
These days, due to social distancing guidelines to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Senate is de facto at rest, but remains formally open, in pro forma sessions, which prevents the president from circumventing the mandatory process of confirming his appointments. “The current practice of leaving [the senators] in the city while holding pro forma sessions is negligent in the line of duty that the American public cannot afford during this crisis. It’s a scam, “said the president.
Lawmakers from both houses of Congress plan to return to Washington on May 4. They have been out of town since mid-March due to the pandemic, although under normal circumstances they would also have stopped for two weeks in April for the Easter holidays. As is usually done during breaks in Congress, pro forma sessions have been held: brief meetings in which a legislator opens the session and closes it just a minute later. As long as the sessions are held at least formally, the president cannot proceed with his appointments avoiding the approval of the legislators.
For Trump, the appointment of conservative judges is a major electoral asset for Republican voters in the November election. The president has acknowledged that, if he followed through on his threat to suspend Congress, he would surely unleash a court battle, which could take months. “We will probably be challenged in court,” he said, “we will see who wins.”