On Thursday, the House overwhelmingly voted to get rid of a piece of Obama-era legislation intended to keep firearms out of the hands of people with severe mental illness.
The votes came down largely along party lines, with a 235-180 vote striking down the Social Security Administration’s attempt at blocking citizens with a wide spectrum of potentially dangerous mental disorders from owning guns. The list of mental illnesses listed range from severe cases of anxiety to paranoid schizophrenia.
The rule would’ve required caseworkers to report people who had received disability benefits from the government for these mental illnesses to the FBI’s background check database. Opponents of the measure say that these restrictions would unfairly single out people receiving disability benefits who simply needed financial help managing them.
The NRA has fought the rule in the past, and likely sees this legislative step as a huge victory after being early Trump supporters. Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist had this to say about the ruling:
‘The Obama administration’s last minute, back-door gun grab would have stripped law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights without due process.’
But there is a broader picture here, one that has, and likely will continue to spell doom for several Obama-era progressive reforms.
The Congressional Review Act
In their effort to block the gun law from going into effect, Republicans sitting in the House utilized the Congressional Review Act. This law permits legislators who disapprove of a federal law to enter a resolution to stop it. The motion cannot be filibustered, and only needs a majority to pass.
Because invoking the Congressional Review Act still needs the signature of the President to pass a resolution, it has very rarely been relevant. Fortunately for the Trump administration, the time is perfect for the act, passed by Newt Gingrich in 1996, to undo a lot of work that President Obama has done in the last 8 years.
Republicans in the House also voted on Thursday to block a blacklisting rule by the Labor Department, requiring that contractors for the federal government report labor violations that happen on their watch.
As if Thursday wasn’t enough of a day for busting up rules meant to protect people, on Wednesday the House used the Congressional Review Act to overturn two other laws. One was an Interior Department law meant to protect streams, passed in 1977 so that residents of a Virginia mining town had the power to protect themselves against coal dust infiltrating their homes. The second law overturned by House Republicans was a rule applying to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which affected oil and gas companies. The edict was a part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank act, and forces relevant companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments.
On Friday, the House is expected to use the CRA to abolish methane emissions standards imposed by the Department of the Interior. As with all Congressional Review Act resolutions, this vote will only need a majority in the House, and a simple signature from President Trump.
Image via Getty/John Moore