- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Congress on Wednesday approved the first gun rights bill of the new Republican-controlled Washington, voting to erase an Obama administration regulation that would have forced Social Security to scour its lists and report some of its beneficiaries to the firearms no-buy list.

The Senate approved the bill on a 57-43 vote. The House cleared the legislation earlier this month.

If President Trump signs the bill into law as expected, it will expunge a last-minute change by the Obama administration designed to add more mental health records to the national background check system that is meant to keep criminals and unstable people from obtaining weapons.

The previous administration had proposed requiring Social Security to search its records and report people receiving disability benefits or supplemental income payments and who had someone else managing their finances, deeming them “mental defectives” who shouldn’t be able to buy firearms.

Republicans said that trampled on Second Amendment rights by casting too wide a net.

“It results in reporting people to the gun ban list that should not be on that list at all,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and chief sponsor of the effort to repeal the Obama rule. “It deprives those people [of] their constitutional rights and, in a very important way, violates their constitutional rights without even due process.”

Democrats said the Social Security gun rule was carefully tailored so that only people who were so incapacitated that they had someone else receive their payments for them would be considered.

“If there are problems with this rule, they can be addressed by fixing it,” said Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. “But the Republican response is always repeal first.”

But Mr. Grassley said the rule was too flawed to be fixed by amendments.

Four Democrats and one independent, all of whom are up for re-election next year, voted with all 52 Republican senators to repeal the rule.

The National Rifle Association, one of Mr. Trump’s biggest outside backers during the presidential race, applauded the vote and said the group looks forward to having the president’s signature on the legislation.

“Today’s Senate vote was the next step in rolling back some of the egregious government overreach that characterized the Obama era,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the gun rights group’s legislative lobbying arm. “Congress is reversing a last-minute, back-door gun grab that stripped law-abiding Americans of their rights without due process.”

Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group co-founded by former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said the move weakens the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

“The very same lawmakers who pay lip service to better enforcement of existing laws and keeping guns out of the hands of people with severe mental illness just undermined the safeguards designed to do just that,” said Everytown President John Feinblatt.

On the Wednesday vote and several others, Republicans have harnessed the power of the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to repeal last-minute regulations issued by lame-duck presidents.

The act allows Congress to speed through repeals of presidential regulations issued within 60 business days.

The law typically becomes relevant only during the early stages of an administration, when one president may be willing to overturn the work of a predecessor, particularly one from a different party.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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