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Friday, July 13, 2012

Obama Guts Bill Clinton's Welfare Reform Law By 'Policy Directive'

By Susan Duclos

Updates being added below the post as reactions come out. 

Today  the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an official policy directive rewriting the welfare reform law of 1996. The new policy guts the federal work requirements that were the foundation of the reform law. The Obama directive bludgeons the letter and intent of the actual reform legislation. - Heritage, 7/12/12

Via Washington Examiner:

While the Obama campaign goes all out attacking Mitt Romney’s business history, the Romney campaign is looking carefully at a new Obama administration policy that could become a significant part of Romney’s case against the president.  In a quiet move Thursday — barely noted beyond the conservative press — the Obama administration “released an official policy directive rewriting the welfare reform law of 1996,” according to Robert Rector, a welfare policy expert at the Heritage Foundation.

The directive — which some Romney aides found stunning — allows the Department of Health and Human Services to waive the work requirement at the heart of welfare reform.  That reform, originally vetoed but later signed into law by President Bill Clinton, is widely viewed as the most successful policy initiative in a generation.  Under it, the growth in welfare rolls was reversed and millions of people moved from welfare to work.

Despite its success, however, many liberals remain opposed to reform.  For example, in the years immediately after passage of the law, Barack Obama himself pledged to do all he could to undo it.  Now, he has.

Heritage explains:

Obama’s Trick to Get Around Work Requirements

Today the Obama Administration issued a new directive stating that the traditional TANF work requirements can be waived or overridden by a legal device called the section 1115 waiver authority under the Social Security law (42 U.S.C. 1315).

Section 1115 states that “the Secretary may waive compliance with any of the requirements” of specified parts of various laws. But this is not an open-ended authority: Any provision of law that can be waived under section 1115 must be listed in section 1115 itself. The work provisions of the TANF program are contained in section 407 (entitled, appropriately, “mandatory work requirements”). Critically, this section, as well as most other TANF requirements, are deliberately not listed in section 1115; they are not waiveable.

In establishing TANF, Congress deliberately exempted or shielded nearly all of the TANF program from the section 1115 waiver authority. They did not want the law to be rewritten at the whim of Health and Human Services (HHS) bureaucrats. Of the roughly 35 sections of the TANF law, only one is listed as waiveable under section 1115. This is section 402.

Section 402 describes state plans—reports that state governments must file to HHS describing the actions they will undertake to comply with the many requirements established in the other sections of the TANF law. The authority to waive section 402 provides the option to waive state reporting requirements only, not to overturn the core requirements of the TANF program contained in the other sections of the TANF law.

The new Obama dictate asserts that because the work requirements, established in section 407, are mentioned as an item that state governments must report about in section 402, all the work requirements can be waived. This removes the core of the TANF program; TANF becomes a blank slate that HHS bureaucrats and liberal state bureaucrats can rewrite at will.

Mitt Romney today made the following statement on the Obama Administration's action to fundamentally undermine the bipartisan 1996 welfare reforms:

President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare. The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work. The President's action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.

[Updates below]

Mickey Kraus over at The Daily Caller with  his initial 15 point analysis of Obama's weakening Clintons welfare reform law.

Newt Gingrich tweets "Obama’s suspension of workfare requirements is almost certainly illegal, a sign of the jobs failure, and a reminder how liberal obama is." Gingrich continues with "President clinton and the republican congress created a bipartisan work oriented reform of welfare. Obama has single handedly destroyed it. (H/T The Daily Caller)

Speaker of the House, John Boehner weighs in with a statement:

The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of unilaterally gutting the work requirements at the heart of President Clinton’s historic welfare reform law, a signature bipartisan achievement of the Clinton administration and Republican-led Congress of the 1990s. Why? Because of the lack of jobs in the Obama economy.

Speaker John Boehner released the following statement:

“By gutting the work requirements in President Clinton’s signature welfare reform law, President Obama is admitting his economic policies have failed.
"While President Clinton worked with Congress in a bipartisan way on welfare reform and economic opportunity, President Obama has routinely ignored Republican proposals, rejected House-passed jobs bills, and imposed an agenda that’s helped keep the unemployment rate above eight percent for 41 months. Instead of working with Republicans to boost job creation, the president is simply disregarding the requirement that welfare recipients find work.
“Welfare reform was an historic, bipartisan success – this move by the Obama administration is a partisan disgrace.”

The Heritage Foundation says the “rigorous new federal work standards that state governments were required to implement” were the core of the welfare reform law. Whereas “[i]n the four decades prior to welfare reform, the welfare caseload never experienced a significant decline,” the work requirements were “very successful” in reducing welfare rolls and getting Americans back to work.

In an op-ed marking welfare reform’s 10-year anniversary, President Clinton said the law and its work requirements “create[ed] a new beginning for millions of Americans.” Welfare rolls “dropped substantially, from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million” in 2006, and “more than 20,000 businesses hired 1.1 million former welfare recipients.”

But with the Obama economy hung over from a failed ‘stimulus’ spending binge, job creators handcuffed by excessive regulations, and small businesses frightened by the president’s tax hike plan, jobs are hard to come by.  So the White House simply gutted the work requirements that have been so successful. Instead of creating new jobs, the Obama administration is creating more dependency.

Thomas Lifson, via American Thinker:

The House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius seeking an explanation for what appears to me to be a lawless power grab. Rep. Camp summed it up: "This is a brazen and unwarranted unraveling of welfare reform.  This ends welfare reform as we know it."
Letter embedded below:

7.12.12 TANF Work Requirements Letter

Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan responded to today’s announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that it would violate the 1996 welfare reform law by waiving work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

“President Obama just tore up a basic foundation of the welfare contract. In exchange for taxpayer-funded TANF payments, the law calls on able-bodied adults to work, look for work, take classes, or undergo drug and alcohol counseling. It’s the tough love that gives people motivation to help themselves.”

“By waiving the law's requirements, President Obama will make it harder for Americans to escape poverty. He is hurting the very people he claims to help.”

“Today’s action is also a blatant violation of the law. After immigration, education, marriage, and religious conscience protections, we can now add welfare reform to the list of laws President Obama refuses to follow.”