Congress Looks To Block Obama Welfare Law Changes
Last week, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) determined that Barack Obama did, in fact, change the work requirements in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that Bill Clinton signed into law. On Thursday, the House Ways and Means and the Education and the Workforce committees are setting forth a resolution to block Obama’s changes that basically waive the law’s work requirements.
Under the administration’s revised policy, federal waivers would allow states to test new approaches to boost employment among low-income families. In exchange, states would have to prove that their new methods are effective, or lose the waivers, the administration says. The move comes in response to Republican and Democratic governors’ requests for more flexibility under the landmark 1996 welfare-to-work law, but Republicans say waivers will “gut” the law’s work requirement — a charge fact-checking organizations have questioned.
Speaking with reporters this week, Camp and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the leading critics of the policy on Capitol Hill, pushed the idea that the administration circumvented Congress when it floated the waivers. “The non-partisan [Government Accountability Office] analysis says this is actually a rule,” Camp said, referring to the decision that allowed Congress to weigh in, “and now we’re following the process under the Congressional Review Act.” Hatch mentioned his pocket constitution, and said “it appears that this administration doesn’t think it has to live by these constitutional constraints.”
Democrats argue that the waivers have long been requested by GOP governors, and some say that Republicans are manipulating racial stereotypes about welfare in the way they criticize the new policy.
A major role player in the crafting of the Welfare Reform Act that Clinton signed is Robert Rector. He actually pointed out that Clinton was wrong when he said, “The requirement was for more work, not less.” Rector wrote for the Heritage Foundation:
The Obama Administration will put in mothballs the formal purpose of welfare reform—to reduce the number of people dependent on government benefits. The Administration will abandon the legislative performance goal that encourages states to reduce welfare caseloads. It will weaken the “work participation” standards that require some 30 percent of able-bodied Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients to engage in work activities for 20 to 30 hours per week.
Even worse, the Obama Administration will “waive compliance” with those work participation standards entirely and replace them with alternative standards designed unilaterally by Health and Human Services (HHS) bureaucrats without congressional input or approval. It will encourage states to use those new standards “in lieu of” the work requirements written in the statute. In other words, HHS explicitly plans to jettison the work requirements provided in the law and replace them with an alternative reform model.
Rector went on to summarize exactly what Obama has done in gutting welfare reform. “According to Obama’s new welfare reform performance goals, the pre-reform Aid to Families with Dependent Children program would be a stunning success,” he writes. “n the period prior to welfare reform, caseloads soared–and employment exits nearly doubled. By contrast, the post-reform TANF program would be judged a failure, as fewer people were going on welfare in the first place—caseloads plummeted, and employment exits declined.”
“Obama has not only gutted welfare reform, he has turned it completely upside down.”
The Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) believes that there will be a floor vote soon and that Democrats will join with the Republicans to support the bill.