On the 10th Day, with no Fanfare, President Trump Signs Social-Security Disapproval Resolution

March 1st, 2017

I’ve written at some length about the congressional-review act disapproval resolution of an Obama-administration regulation that would have denied the right to acquire firearms to certain people on disability, who requested a representative to manage their payments.

The resolution passed the House on 2/2/17 and passed the Senate on 2/15/17. It was presented to the President on 2/16/17. I had been expecting at some point over the past week for the President to hold a ostentatious signing statement. But one never came. In fact, he signed it on the 10th day, without any public ceremony.  Meanwhile, he held several other signing ceremonies.

Why was this resolution signed so quietly? A few theories jump to mind. Despite Trump’s steadfast defense of the Second Amendment, he supported the “no buy” list, which would deny people on terrorist watch lists (based only on a suspicion) the ability to acquire firearms. This was patently unconstitutional, in violation of both the 2nd Amendment, as well as the Due Process Clause. The NRA and the ACLU were on the same page here. Perhaps Trump thinks people with disabilities, who need representative payees, should not be trusted with firearms.  Or maybe he didn’t like the optics of the signing ceremony, which would have involved NRA members and people with disabilities.

It’s strange that no ceremony was held, but signed the resolution was. Now the Social Security Administration is forever disabled from regulating in this, or a similar area. Such is the risk of rushing out a midnight regulation.

One final note about the timing.  Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 provides that if “any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law.” Although Article I, Section 7, Clause 3 provides that a “Resolution,” must be “presented to the President” after the “Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives,” it isn’t entirely clear from the Text of the Constitution that Resolutions also take effect if not returned within ten Days.

I checked with Mike Stern, who is an expert on all things procedural. He located a 1989 OLC Opinion signed by Doug Kmiec, which suggests that the President also has ten days to sign the resolution, or during the same period veto it. It doesn’t answer the question of whether the resolution takes effect, even in the absence of the signature, but the import of the opinion is that it would. I did this research in advance, because I suspected Trump wouldn’t sign it, at all.