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Trump Threatens Constitutional Crisis During Coronavirus Pandemic

Many vacancies exist throughout the executive branch of the United States government. Several have yet to be formally voted on in the Republican-controlled Senate, and still others are vacant simply because President Donald Trump hasn’t yet named anyone to hold those positions of power.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Yet on Wednesday evening, Trump blamed Democrats for blocking his appointments, threatening to use a little-known constitutional power to adjourn both houses of Congress in order to allow him to make the appointments, sans oversight or approval, in a recess setting.

Trump derided the Senate for using “pro forma” sessions, where most of the chamber is not present for the business of the day but a session is gaveled in by someone who is there, allowing the chamber to be in session.

“The Senate’s practice of gaveling in to so-called pro forma sessions where no one is even there has prevented me from using the constitutional authority…given under the recess provisions,” Trump said at the White House. “The Senate should either fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees or it should formally adjourn so that I can make recess appointments.”

The president has the power to adjourn both or either houses of Congress, according to Article II of the Constitution:

“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.”

The power to adjourn has never been used by any president in the history of the nation, and it’s questionable whether it’s proper for a chief executive to make appointments in such a manner — laying down the likelihood that, should Trump pursue this path, it may set up a legal question of whether the appointments were properly made, and thus, are legal or not.

Trump recognized that no other president has done this or behaved in this manner. “Perhaps it’s never done before, it’s never been done before. Nobody’s even sure if it has. But we’re going to do it,” he said.

The president claimed he needed the appointments made post-haste in order to deal with the looming coronavirus crisis in an effective manner.

“We need people for this crisis and we don’t want to play any more political games,” Trump said.



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