It may seem odd that the president is able to close another branch of government. But Article II of the Constitution empowers him to assert that there is a “case of disagreement” between the chambers “with respect to the time of adjournment” and adjourn Congress himself. If the Senate resolves to adjourn and the House refuses to do so, Mr. Trump can shutter Congress.
So said James Madison. In 1788, Madison observed: “Were the Senate to attempt to prevent an adjournment, it would but serve to irritate the Representatives, without having the intended effect, as the President could adjourn them.” This is the converse of our situation. If the House were “to prevent an adjournment,” it would serve no purpose, “as the President could adjourn” Congress.
We should feel no sympathy for Congress. The House pretends to be open for the sake of preventing recess appointments. Yet as things stand, because neither chamber is actually meeting in any real sense, nothing can pass. Hence the Senate is in a de facto recess. Under current rules, when legislators go home, we have a Potemkin Congress.