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Andrew McCarthy: Trump threatens Congress — can he force them to adjourn?

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Even those who are not Trump devotees but would like to see the government function properly should sympathize with the president’s frustration over the way Senate Democrats have slow-walked his appointments.

To be sure, this is not the exclusive reason why there are vacancies in key executive-branch slots, including in posts relevant to the government’s COVID-19 response. The administration has been slow in making nominations to some positions (when asked about this, the president says it is an intentional strategy to shrink bloated government).

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Trump can be very difficult to work for. And the baseless investigations of the administration have made it challenging to recruit high-caliber people — such people always have other options, and even the most public-spirited people would rather avoid situations where the need to retain counsel comes with the territory.

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Hopefully, though, the president was just blowing off steam earlier last week when he threatened to force an adjournment of Congress in order to enable recess appointments, by which he might temporarily install executive officers and federal judges. Realistically, the president has no power to force Congress to adjourn — it is up to the Senate to is decide whether it in session. The Constitution’s recess-appointment provision, moreover, is an anachronism that should be treated as a nullity.

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To take the latter first, it is not 1787 anymore. Modern transportation technology makes it easy to convene Congress if there is some emergency reason to do so.

Modern communications technology may soon usher in remote congressional sessions, in which senators and House members debate and vote from wherever they are situated outside of Washington — something that was seriously proposed when the coronavirus hit Capitol Hill a few weeks back. In short, we are no longer in an era when (a) Congress is not in session for months on end, (b) it is challenging to assemble lawmakers in Washington to conduct emergency business, and (c) the president has to have some way to fill key posts during a sudden crisis.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS COLUMN IN THE NATIONAL REVIEW

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