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H.J.Res. 40: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Social Security Administration relating to Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007.

Feb 15, 2017 at 10:31 a.m. ET. On the Joint Resolution in the Senate.

This was a vote to agree to H.J.Res. 40 (115th) in the Senate.

###The context and what the bill does

The Obama Administration in its closing days instituted a new regulation instituting a novel form of gun control. The rule Public Law 115–8 was recently passed by Congress and signed by President Trump to overturn this rule.

###What supporters say

Republicans saw this as an unconstitutional infringement on the Second Amendment and power grab by a Democratic administration whose party had just been voted out of office. They called the existing classifications arbitrary. Other groups like the ACLU added that the rule noted in floor remarks. “The ‘personal opinion’ of a bureaucrat cannot be the basis for taking away a person’s Second Amendment rights. Further… the ‘disorder list’ is a convoluted mess of afflictions that may or may not cause someone to be dangerous. Many of the listed disorders also do not impact gun safety at all. For example, some afflictions deal with anxiety disorders, fear of large crowds, or a lack of self-esteem.”

###What opponents say

Opponents counter that the SSA’s rule was both necessary for public safety in a nation awash with guns, as well as constitutional under current interpretation of the Second Amendment.“The Supreme Court recognized in [2008’s] District of Columbia v. Heller ‘that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms.’ The Court emphasized, however, that, ‘’[l]ike most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,’’ and that ‘‘nothing in [the Court’s] opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,’” the SSA wrote when announcing their rule. “Our actions… are fully consistent with the Supreme Court’s recognition in Heller of the validity ‘of longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by the mentally ill.’”

####Congressional votes

Introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX3) as House Joint Resolution 40, the bill passed the House 235–180 a mere three days later after its introduction.

Six Democrats voted in favor, most from major gun-owning states: Sanford Bishop (D-GA2), Henry Cuellar (D-TX28), Ron Kind (D-WI3), Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ1), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ9), and Timothy Walz (D-MN1). Two Republicans voted against, both from New York state: Reps. Daniel Donovan (R-NY11) and Pete King (R-NY2).

About two weeks later, the bill 32 cosponsors, all but one a Republican. Four Senate Democrats plus one Democratic-caucusing Independent voted in favor, most from major gun-owning states: Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jon Tester (D-MT). No Senate Republicans voted against.


President Trump signed it into law on February 28. The Republicans seem to be trying to keep this relatively quiet. The White House press release on the law’s enactment did not require compliance until December 2017 anyway, so the gun control law was never fully in effect.

Vote Outcome
All Votes R D I
Yea 57%
Nay 43%

Joint Resolution Passed. Simple Majority Required. Source:

The Yea votes represented 47% of the country’s population by apportioning each state’s population to its voting senators.

Ideology Vote Chart
Republican - Yea Democrat - Yea Democrat - Nay

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Study Guide

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You can find answers to most of the questions below here on the vote page. For a guide to understanding the resolution this vote was about, see here.

What was the procedure for this vote?

  1. What was this vote on?
  2. Not all votes are meant to pass legislation. In the Senate some votes are not about legislation at all, since the Senate must vote to confirm presidential nominations to certain federal positions.

    This vote is related to a resolution. However, that doesn’t necessarily tell you what it is about. Congress makes many decisions in the process of passing legislation, such as on the procedures for debating the resolution, whether to change the resolution before voting on passage, and even whether to vote on passage at all.

    You can learn more about the various motions used in Congress at If you aren’t sure what the Senate was voting on, try seeing if it’s on this list.

  3. What is the next step after this vote?
  4. Take a look at where this resolution is in the legislative process. What might come next? Keep in mind what this specific vote was on, and the context of the resolution. Will there be amendments? Will the other chamber of Congress vote on it, or let it die?

    For this question it may help to briefly examine the resolution itself.

What is your analysis of this vote?

  1. What trends do you see in this vote?
  2. Members of Congress side together for many reasons beside being in the same political party, especially so for less prominent legislation or legislation specific to a certain region. What might have determined how the roll call came out in this case? Does it look like Members of Congress voted based on party, geography, or some other reason?

  3. How did your senators vote?
  4. There are two votes here that should be more important to you than all the others. These are the votes cast by your senators, which are meant to represent you and your community. Do you agree with how your senators voted? Why do you think they voted the way they did?

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  5. How much of the United States population is represented by the yeas?
  6. GovTrack displays the percentage of the United States population represented by the yeas on some Senate votes just under the vote totals. We do this to highlight how the people of the United States are represented in the Senate. Since each state has two senators, but state populations vary significantly, the individuals living in each state have different Senate representation. For example, California’s population of near 40 million is given the same number of senators as Wyoming’s population of about 600,000.

    Do the senators who voted yea represent a majority of the people of the United States? Does it matter?

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