As Reuters reports, Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, is doing everything he can to prevent the Trump Administration from reforming the small arms export process and ending a punitive Obama-era tax on gunsmiths.
A senior U.S. senator said on Friday he would block President Donald Trump’s efforts to overhaul the weapons exports regime to make it easier for gun makers to sell small arms to foreign buyers.
Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was placing a “hold” on a notification last month related to the White House’s effort to switch oversight of the export of small arms, including assault-style and sniper rifles, from the Department of State to the less rigorous jurisdiction of the Commerce Department.
There’s only one problem with Menendez’s ploy. He doesn’t have the power to stop the move.
As we wrote back in July, the Trump administration wants to move oversight of small arms exports from the State Department to the Commerce Department. This would not only make exports of small arms to friendly countries easier, it would also eliminate a burdensome Obama era tax on every gunsmith in the country.
Menendez waited until the final day of the 30-day final notice period to place his “hold” on the process. Unfortunately for Menendez, he can’t put a hold on the move. The only way to stop the move now is to pass a resolution in both houses of Congress and get it signed by President Trump. Or override a (sure) Trump veto of such a resolution.
According to people TTAG has spoken with who know, this appears to be an attempt by Menendez to let the administration know he intends to start that process even though he knows it doesn’t have a prayer of passage.
We also talked to the National Shooting Sports Foundation about the move. They follow these maneuvers closely and Mark Oliva, the NSSF’s Director of Public Affairs had this to say:
Senator Menendez didn’t object when the Trump administration most recently sent the informal and formal notification to Congress. He objected on the on the final day of the administration’s notification of the Final Rule. This rule can go into effect once the Commerce and State Department secretaries sign off.
Senator Menendez made a similar last-minute objection earlier this year and the administration, out of deference, pulled the notification and reworked it over his concerns over 3D printing. He is purposefully conflating his authority to object to an export license versus the rule-making process.
As to fees paid by gunsmiths…
This conversion would also eliminates the $2,250 fee paid by licensed gunsmiths who don’t produce and sell firearms, especially for export. This is a punitive fee that unfairly targets those who simply fix and improve firearms, yet never produce them.
House of Representatives Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has made this a priority and the National Shooting Sports Foundation honored him for his commitment to the small business owner to eliminate unnecessary and overburdening fees. Senator Menendez’s objections would seek to keep that unfair fee in place.
Right now, all that has to happen to finalize the move from State to Commerce is for Senate-confirmed officials at both agencies to sign off on it. That would start a 45-day implementation clock. Once that happens, the move will be a done deal.
Unless, of course, Menendez can manage to round up veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress to reverse it.