The Senate was scheduled to stay in Washington for two weeks during their August recess. After the failure of the Republican health care effort, they decided to go home earlier than planned. Thursday evening, Senators left the Capitol, many of whom will not return until after labor day. Before leaving Thursday, the Senate made a procedural move that will put limits on the President while the Senators are away.
What Did the Senate Do?
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who notably cast one of the deciding no votes that defeated the “skinny repeal” bill, locked in 9 “pro-forma” sessions for the recess while she was doing wrap up for the Senate.
These sessions are short meetings that last roughly a minute each. These “pro-forma” sessions mean the Senate is not officially adjourned. The move requires that every Senator agree. So the Senate will meet for “pro-forma” sessions every three days throughout the recess.
The process will require a Senator from the majority party, the GOP at this time, to come to Washington to briefly preside over the Senate every three days.
Because the Senate is still technically in session, the President will be unable to make any recess appointments that would temporarily bypass Senate confirmation. It is not the first time this procedural move has been utilized. The Senate also used this tool to block President Obama from making a recess appointment to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
While Republicans claim they did not use the “pro-forma” sessions to block the President or tie his hands, the decision comes after Trump repeatedly and rather viciously attacked his Attorney General and long time supporter Jeff Sessions.
Republicans on Capitol Hill were quick to come to a strong defense of the Attorney General, sending a clear message to President Trump. As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, if the President were to fire Attorney General Sessions there would be “holy hell to pay.”
President Trump is currently in search of a new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security after he appointed former director General John Kelly to replace Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff. There are rumors that Sessions may get moved if he can’t be fired.