This article describes Trump's Covid-19 press conference on April 15th, in which he stated that:

"I have a very strong power. I'd rather not use that power, but we have way over a hundred people that we very badly need in this administration that should've been approved a long time ago,"

The article says that this refers to Trump

considering using constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress so that he can appoint his nominees for key positions without waiting for confirmation from the Senate.

Which provisions in the Constitution allow firstly for the President to adjourn Congress, and secondly for nominees for federal positions to be approved by the President without oversight from the Senate? Have these provisions ever seen use before?

  • Does Frank Underwood's appointment of his wife as UN Ambassador count? Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 1:26

1 Answer 1


The wording in section 3 of article 2

[...] 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 is only in case the Senate and House cannot agree on an adjournment. Wikipedia notes that no president has ever used his power to adjourn.

It would be exceptional to use this power to adjourn for the purpose of making temporary appointments without the consent of the Senate. As it hasn't happened before, would require the consent of at least one house it is uncertain if Trump's interpretation of the Constitution is correct.

In this context you should note:

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

So in a normal session, the two divisions of Congress are expected to agree on a date of adjournment. If one house wants to adjourn but the other refuses, then the President may break this impasse by ordering an adjournment.

  • 2
    The second part of the question requires the use of Recess Appointments en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recess_appointment which are fairly common.
    – Jontia
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 11:12
  • 2
    @Jontia Used to be fairly common. Pro forma sessions are now used to block all recess appointments. They'd really only happen when a party controls both houses and the Presidency, but filibusters or something are blocking things, at which point the houses can agree to adjourn for a few days and the President can force them in via recess appointments. Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 17:28
  • 8
    The inability to unilaterally adjourn Congress is almost certainly intentional -- the framers of the Constitution would have been quite familiar with King Charles I's efforts to rule without Parliament.
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 20:07

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