Washington, April 16 (IANS) US President Donald 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 fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees or it should formally adjourn so I can make recess appointments,” Xinhua news agency quoted the President as saying 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.”

“I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress,” Trump said, adding: “I’d rather not use that power. We’ll probably be challenged in court and we’ll see who wins.”

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.

According to the US Constitution, the President is allowed to make nominations for appointed positions like cabinet officers, but the Senate controls the process, including the rules that allow a nomination vote to get to the full Senate floor.

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.”

Jonathan 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 President just 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 both the Congress and the White House, a stay-at-home order issued by Mayor Muriel Bowser is in place until May 15.

–IANS

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