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Trump threatens to adjourn Congress to get his nominees but likely would be impeded by Senate rules

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 4/15/2020 Colby Itkowitz
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President Trump threatened to shut down both chambers of Congress to allow him to fill vacancies in his administration without Senate approval.

He spent several minutes of his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday blaming Senate Democrats for blocking his nominations, even though most of the vacancies in the federal government are because Trump hasn’t selected anyone to fill them. Several of his nominees haven’t been given a confirmation hearing yet in the Republican-led Senate. 

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Trump cited a never-exercised power the Constitution grants the president to adjourn Congress if leaders of the House and Senate can’t agree on whether to adjourn. The Senate often recesses but stays open in a “pro forma” session, which thwarts Trump’s ability to make recess appointments that bypass the regular confirmation process.

“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. It is a scam. What they do, it’s a scam and everybody knows it,” Trump said. 

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden at the White House on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. © Leah Millis/Reuters President Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden at the White House on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Trump’s gambit assumes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would go along with adjourning and even then it would still be nearly impossible to get the votes needed to formally adjourn.

McConnell’s office declined to comment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) did not respond.

“They know they’ve been warned and they’ve been warned right now. If they don’t approve it, then we’re going to go this route and we’ll probably be challenged in court and we’ll see who wins,” Trump said when asked if there’s a timeline on his threat.

colby.itkowitz@washpost.com

Erica Werner contributed to this report.


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