House to vote tomorrow on Congressional Review Act disapproval of Social Security Gun Grab

February 1st, 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.

Now, our work has helped this resolution became a reality. After reports in WSJ, AP, and Reuters, I can now report that the disapproval resolution, introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), is ready to proceed. After an hour of debate tomorrow (all that is allowed under the rules), there will be a vote. From everything I’ve gathered, it will succeed. Then, the resolution goes to the Senate, where I understand Sen. Chuck Grassely (R-IA) will be taking the lead.

The resolution is very straightforward:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Social Security Administration relating to Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (published at 81 Fed. Reg. 91702 (December 19, 2016)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.

And by the way, once Congress disapproves of this resolution, the agency is barred from introducing substantially similar regulations in the future. It salts the earth.

Rep. Johnson’s press release specifically cites our contributions to the project:

And as mental health advocates and legal scholars wrote in The Hill after the rule was finalized:

“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.”

There are also many other letters in support of the resolution.

Stay tuned for the vote.