Trump Blames Democrats For Republican-Controlled Senate Not Approving His Nominees

In the Rose Garden, Wednesday

Let’s just get this straight…

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has no say over approving the President’s nominees. Only the Republican-controlled Senate. And it’s by simple majority; no controversial filibuster here (thanks to Democrat Harry Reid when he was Senate Majority Leader). So Trump’s contention that Democrats are to blame is as tall a tale as he’s ever told.

Or maybe it’s a tie, since he also just said of his signature suddenly appearing on Coronavirus relief checks: “I don’t know too much about it, but I understand my name is there“.

The Constitution declares the President make appointments:

[B]y and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States.” (Article 2, Section 2).

Nothing about the House in there.

Now, the Constitution does also say that the President:

[M]ay, 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.” (Article 2, Section 3).

Watch Trump’s rant about those things by clicking on the photo here:

If you watched the clip, you’d see even Trump admits the Senate’s priority–or more specifically his and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s priority—is to get new, young, conservative judges onto federal benches. Just in case he loses in November. And that’s put Trump’s own nominees on the back burner. By design. By Republicans.

Yet Trump promises he might take some kind of nuclear action of his own, which would involve completely shutting down Congress so he can ram through so-called “Recess Appointments”, which the Constitution says President can do if the Senate is adjourned.

Now here’s where it gets a little tricky, and where the House does get involved: in order for Trump to make recess appointments, the Senate has to be adjourned. But the Constitution requires that neither the House nor the Senate adjourn without the approval of the other. So even if the Senate takes Trump’s threat as a good suggestion and tries to completely shut down, no way the Democrat-controlled House would go along with that. It would create quite a sideshow, though.

These days, even the Republican controlled Senate always remains in “pro forma session”, meaning some Senator or other sticks around to gavel in and gavel out, usually in under a minute, without conducting legislative business of any kind, which is really just so the President can’t make appointments of which even Republicans don’t approve. This started when Republicans took over the Senate during President Obama’s term, but they’ve continued it with Trump.

And this is where it gets even trickier: because “pro forma sessions” were challenged during the Obama Administration, essentially for being a “scam” like Trump says. And the Supreme Court unanimously ruled they are legit, saying, in part:

The Senate is in session when it says it is.”

Yes, Democrats can do things to slow the progress of the President’s nominees, like demanding fuller debate, but it’s nothing Republicans didn’t do when Democrats were in control. Also, Trump hadn’t been exactly swift in putting up nominees, and in some keys roles has even said he prefers to appoint folks on an “acting” basis (where they can generally stay in their roles for a limited but fairly long period of time without Senate approval).

Also, Congress is needed to add to, create new, or extend bailout packages to businesses and individuals, and if the President shuts them down—even if he can—then they can’t do that.

So yes, this is another frenzied attempt at distraction by the President. We weren’t planning on writing about it, except it’s so outlandish. And we’re wondering if Trump isn’t throwing some of these more extreme ideas around so that more incremental moves toward “total authority” as he himself puts it, or totalitarianism as it’s more commonly known, seem less dramatic. Also, even if it is totally a distraction, doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t do it.

As Trump again asserts (avoiding the word “total” this time):

We have the right to do whatever we want.”

Quick Update To Our Story: “Will Voters Be Able To Use COVID-19 As An “Excuse” To Get An Absentee Ballot This Fall?”

A district judge in Texas says “yes”. “Not so fast”, says the state’s Attorney General.

Texas does not have “no-excuse” absentee ballots. Although people over the age of 65 automatically qualify. So does anyone with a disability. And according to Texas election code, a disability is defined as a “sickness or physical condition” that would put the person at risk of injuring their health if they were forced to show up in person to vote.

Portion of Texas absentee ballot application

But does fear of catching COVID-19 count? According to the Texas Tribune, the judge issued an injunction “allowing all voters who risk exposure to the Coronavirus if they vote in person to ask for a mail-in ballot under a portion of the Texas election code allowing absentee ballots for voters who cite a disability.”

Texas’ Republican Attorney General, Ken Paxton, however, expressed a very different view, saying:

Fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability.”

So this ain’t over. We’ll update.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Legislature overrode a veto by the state’s Democratic Governor, and will require government-issued photo ID from now on in order to be able to vote. What’s the problem with that? State offices right now are closed because of COVID-19, so people can’t really get a government-issued ID even if they wanted one. And even if/when they reopen, they’re sure to be tremendously backlogged.