- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2017

House Republicans will move this week to wipe out a series of rules finalized in the closing days of the Obama administration, including one that could prevent certain Social Security recipients from purchasing guns.

Under the rule — part of President Obama’s gun control push — Social Security was to scour its lists for people receiving certain disability payments who were deemed mentally impaired, then flag their names in the national gun-purchasing background-check system.

The Obama administration billed it as a way to provide more complete information about people who shouldn’t have access to firearms, but gun rights advocates saw it as an infringement on the Second Amendment.

“This rule is a clear violation of disabled Americans’ due process rights, and passing this resolution would send a strong message that Congress and President Trump still believe our Constitution is worth defending,” said Rep. Ralph Lee Abraham, Louisiana Republican, who has sponsored legislation to repeal the rule.

Social Security finalized the rule last month, which means Congress can quickly repeal it under provisions of the Congressional Review Act.

The rule is about keeping guns out of the hands of people already prohibited from having guns on the basis of dangerous mental illness, said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

“These are individuals who are prohibited under the pre-existing law — and if Congress acts to repeal the rule, it will be enabling them to pass background checks and possess firearms illegally,” she said.

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress 60 days to repeal any federal rule if can muster the votes and get the president’s signature.

That usually comes into play only when there is a change in the White House and the president is willing to reverse his predecessor’s work.

“The CRA ensures that the people’s elected representatives have the opportunity to rein in federal agencies that overstep their bounds or undermine Americans’ constitutionally protected rights,” said Chris Bond, a spokesman for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican.

In addition to the gun bill, the House has four other Obama-era rules slated for scrap votes. They include mining operations on streams in the U.S. and requiring energy companies to disclose payments made to the U.S. or a foreign government for the commercial development of oil or natural gas.

Republicans previously have sought to rein in Mr. Obama using the Congressional Review Act but always faced the nearly insurmountable threat of his veto pen, which he used five times to reject such resolutions of disapproval, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The act, approved in 1996, has been used successfully only once. That was in 2001, when President George W. Bush signed legislation overturning a rule proposed by the Clinton administration on ergonomic standards.

But with another change in party in the White House, Republicans are moving quickly with the 60-day window in mind. If the House and Senate both pass a disapproval resolution and the president signs it, the rule in question is immediately voided.

“It’s absolutely critical for this unified Republican government to hit the ground running, and in the weeks and months ahead Americans can expect to see Congress work closely with the new administration to roll back excessive regulations and transfer power away from Washington and back to the American people,” Mr. Bond said.

Over the objections of Democrats, who said Republicans were trying to undermine Mr. Obama, the House has also passed legislation to streamline the process and allow Congress to consider such resolutions in a bloc.

“According to my Republican colleagues, the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda has eroded job growth and economic prosperity. Far from it,” Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr., Georgia Democrat, said on the House floor shortly after November elections. “If anything we need new rules and better enforcement of existing law to ensure corporate accountability.”

Easing the process for Republicans, certain resolutions of disapproval cannot be filibustered in the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The law also limits an agency’s ability to reissue a spiked rule in “substantially the same form,” presenting lawmakers with an opportunity to effectively wipe out much of what Mr. Obama’s administration tried to push through the rule-making process in the last two months or so.

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

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