In a rare turn out of events, US President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, to adjourn Congress as he was frustrated when lawmakers were not present in Washington to vote on his nominees for federal judgeships and other government positions. Nonetheless, it remained uncertain whether Congress’ absence from Washington was caused due to the global pandemic or could be classified as being due to a failure to agree on an adjournment date.
Trump’s Threats to Adjourn Congress
Trump told reporters at his daily White House briefing on the coronavirus crisis, citing his disappointment over the absence of the Congress from Washington, “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.” He claimed, “It is a scam that they do. It’s a scam and everyone knows it, and it’s been that way for a long time.”
The US Congress, which comprises of all leaders of Senate and House of Representatives, had announced plans to return to Washington on May 4 and had been moving out of Washington for two weeks in April for their annual Easter break even before the coronavirus crisis. Considering Trump’s threat, however, no US president has ever used such power, although included in the Constitution, to adjourn both chambers of Congress in the pretext of failing to bring an adjournment date.
Following Trump’s statement, a McConnell spokesman said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed with Trump about his nominations on Wednesday as well as promised to find ways to confirm those “considered mission-critical” to the pandemic. The spokesman added, “However, under Senate rules, that would take consent from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.”
Congress is in Recess
As per the government officials and health experts recommended to stay home, members of the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-led House have been moving out of Washington since mid-March in a view to combating the virus spread. The pandemic had forced to recess Congressional sessions, however, the House and Senate have held regular “pro forma” sessions during Congressional recess.
Analysts explained, as long as those short sessions are held regularly, the president cannot make “recess appointments’ and Trump’s threats to shut down Congress could have led him to face a legal challenge. Citing the prolonged delay as some nominees have waited months to be confirmed, Trump defended his position and even acknowledged that he was confident to fight in the court.
Trump said, “We’ll probably be challenged in court, and we’ll see who wins.” Trump’s appointment of conservative federal judges was considered to be a stronghold for his campaign of running re-election in November. Moreover, he also claimed that his nominees would help in dealing with the current situations of pandemic without explaining how he would do that.
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