Might Republicans change that rule to help Trump?
They could, in theory.
By a majority vote, Senate Republicans could first change the chamber’s rules to allow proposals to adjourn for lengthy periods to receive up-or-down votes, and then they could force approval for a recess sufficiently long enough for Mr. Trump to make unilateral appointments. Because the Democratic-controlled House would inevitably object, the two chambers would then be in an actual disagreement for Mr. Trump to resolve.
“The Senate should either fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees, or formally adjourn so I can make recess appointments,” Mr. Trump said, adding: “If the House will not agree to that adjournment, I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress.”
Is that likely?
No, for two reasons.
First, while the Senate is operating in pro forma sessions, it may only conduct business by unanimous consent, so to change the rules, senators would have to risk traveling back to Washington anyway. Once back, the Republican majority could instead resume confirming Mr. Trump’s highest-priority nominees.
Second, it is far from clear that Mr. McConnell and other Senate Republicans would want to create a precedent that would effectively gut their own power over confirmations — especially given the possibility that a Democrat, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., may become president in nine months.
A spokesman for Mr. McConnell issued a statement saying the majority leader had spoken to the president and shared his frustration. But the statement notably did not express endorsement with the idea of engineering a presidential adjournment of the Senate and invoked the necessity of agreement by the Senate’s top Democrat, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.
“The leader pledged to find ways to confirm nominees considered mission-critical to the Covid-19 pandemic, but under Senate rules, that will take consent from Leader Schumer,” the statement said.
Have Democrats blocked pandemic-related nominees?
It does not appear so. Democrats expressed puzzlement at the insinuation they had held up nominees for public health positions. Mr. Trump mentioned his desire that the Senate confirm pending nominees for director of national intelligence, the Federal Reserve board of governors, an assistant Treasury secretary, an under secretary of agriculture “responsible for administering food security programs” and the head of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.