Movement Builds to use Congressional Review Act to Rescind Unconstitutional Social-Security Administration Gun Grab

January 28th, 2017

In July, I co-authored a regulatory comment on behalf of the Cato Institute, opposing a proposed rule that would designate Social Security recipients who receive a “representative payee” as “mentally defective,” and thus disqualified to purchase firearms. This regime, which failed to offer even the most basic elements of due process, deprived people with disabilities of their civil rights. Much to my disappointment, the Obama administration published the final rule on December 19–just enough time for it to go into effect on the eve of the inauguration. Perhaps the outgoing government thought they pulled a fast one–not so fast.

Almost immediately after the rule was finalized, I engaged in talks with members of the Disability Rights community, as well as Senate and House staffers, to utilize the Congressional Review Act to nullify this midnight regulation. (I discuss the operation of the CRA here). In particular, I worked closely with Dara Baldwin of the National Disability Rights Network, and Samantha Crane of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, to put together an editorial in The Hill to make the case for the CRA. Writing this piece was a valuable experience, because we had to find a unifying ground that would appeal to all parties, without reference to party. I think the essay accomplishes that goal. Here is a sample from Congress should rescind Social Security regulation that violates civil rights of those with disabilities:

Near the end of the Obama administration, a number of new regulations were published, including one from the Social Security Administration that crossed an unfortunate line. Under recently finalized rules, millions of Americans with a disability, who have shown no propensity to harm others, could be barred from acquiring firearms. This regulation stigmatizes Social Security recipients with a disability who request help to manage their financial affairs. Even worse, it deprives them of their civil rights without due process of law.

Fortunately, the 115th Congress can rescind this discriminatory rule through the Congressional Review Act, which allows the House and Senate to disapprove of a recently-finalized regulation. If the president agrees, the regulation is nullified. On this important issue, members on both sides of the aisle should stand together: individuals with a disability should not be scapegoated to advance gun control.

Although the appropriate response to gun violence can be a divisive question, these new regulations should alarm civil rights advocates. We must not respond to gun violence by scapegoating the disability community. Advocates across the political spectrum should come together and oppose this misguided regulation.

On the same day that our op-ed ran, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, flagged the social-security rule in his WSJ editorial:

The bureaucracy under President Obama has also threatened America’s constitutional rights. A new rule from the Social Security Administration would increase scrutiny on up to 4.2 million disabled Americans if they attempt to purchase firearms. This would elevate the Social Security Administration to the position of an illegitimate arbiter of the Second Amendment. And in an affront to basic due process, the bureaucracy has attempted to blacklist from federal contracts any business accused of violating labor laws—before the company even has a chance to defend itself in court.

With President Trump’s signature, every one of these regulations will be overturned. In the weeks to come, the House and Senate will use the Congressional Review Act to repeal as many job-killing and ill-conceived regulations as possible. That’s how to protect American workers and businesses, defend the Constitution, and turn words into actions.

And, in perhaps the most important development, the NRA supports this repeal:

“Congress’s decision to review the Obama administration’s back-door gun grab is a significant step forward in protecting a fundamental constitutional right for law-abiding gun owners,” Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist, said in a statement Wednesday.

“The NRA has been fighting this unconstitutional government overreach since its as first discussed and we look forward to swift congressional action,” he added.

But this is not strictly a gun-control issue. As our Hill op-ed reveals, this issue is of great importance to the disability rights community. There is more coverage in the AP and Reuters.

Congress should rescind this unconstitutional deprivation of civil rights, and permanently disable the agency from enacting a “substantially similar” rule.