Romney set to assail Obama for welfare changes
August 7th, 2012
05:00 AM ET
2 years ago

Romney set to assail Obama for welfare changes

(CNN) - Changes to welfare pushed by President Barack Obama's administration are providing his Republican challenger Mitt Romney with material for a new round of attacks, including a television ad released Tuesday.

The changes, which would allow states greater flexibility in administering their welfare-to-work programs, came in a directive issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in mid-July. At the time, some Republicans claimed the new rules amounted to a "gutting" of work requirements for welfare recipients, which were a central element of the bipartisan welfare reform law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

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In Tuesday's ad from the Romney campaign, an announcer points to Clinton's achievement, and claims Obama's directive would "gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements."

"Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check," the announcer continues. "And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare."

Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the welfare ad was one piece in a larger push to highlight the Obama administration's changes to ways states administer welfare.

"Middle-class Americans are working harder and harder to make ends meet," Saul wrote. "Under President Obama, they have fewer jobs and less take-home pay. And now, President Obama wants to take their hard-earned tax dollars and give it to welfare recipients without work requirements."

Romney, she wrote, "would restore the work requirement in the welfare law so that recipients know the dignity of work instead of the dependency of a handout."

The Obama administration directive, issued July 12, allows individual states to experiment with changes to their welfare-to-work programs, which are federally funded. The intent, according to the directive, is to "challenge states to engage in a new round of innovation that seeks to find more effective mechanisms for helping families succeed in employment."

The welfare-to-work program affected by the directive – the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – was created by the welfare reform law signed by Clinton in 1996. That measure was considered a win for conservatives, who long pushed for a provision that required work training for Americans receiving government assistance.

The Obama administration argues the potential changes would help people move quickly from welfare rolls to paying jobs by reducing burdensome requirements, including excessive paperwork. Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, said Tuesday that any suggestion Obama was "gutting" welfare-to-work programs was false.

"Let me say that this advertisement is categorically false and it is blatantly dishonest," Carney said. "This administration's policy will strengthen the program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways."

He called Republican criticism of the changes "outrageous," pointing to past support from Republican governors – including Romney – for waivers to the federal requirements.

"The ad is particularly outrageous as Governor Romney himself with 28 other Republican governors supported policies that would have eliminated the time limits in the welfare reform law and allowed people to stay on welfare forever. Those are not standards the president supports," Carney said.

In 2005, Romney signed a letter along with 29 other state governors to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, calling for greater state flexibility in managing their TANF programs.

"Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work," the letter read.

In a memo Tuesday, Romney's campaign Policy Director Lanhee Chen wrote that Romney has remained consistent in supporting work requirements for welfare recipients.

"Because Massachusetts had implemented reforms of its own shortly before the federal reforms of 1996, it was actually exempt from many of the federal requirements when Romney took office as governor," Chen wrote. "But nevertheless, facing an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in one of the most liberal states in the country, Romney vetoed efforts to weaken work requirements and he pressed repeatedly to instead strengthen them and bring them in line with federal standards."

Obama's re-election campaign responded to the ad in a statement Tuesday, accusing Romney of "not telling the truth."

"The truth is that the President is giving states additional flexibility only if they move more people from welfare to work – not fewer. As Governor, Romney asked for even greater flexibility to waive the central part of the law by letting people receive benefits for an indefinite period and as HHS has said, his waiver request wouldn't be approved today because it weakened the law too much. By falsely attacking a policy that both he and his Republican allies have supported for years, Romney is once again flip flopping on a position he took in Massachusetts, and demonstrating that he lacks the core strength and principles the nation needs in a President," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.


Filed under: Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. matty r

    bottom line...the decision would be on the state whether to adopt this. More of a conservative approach if you ask me.

    August 7, 2012 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  2. Donkey Party

    Let's end welfare altogether, starting with the biggest recipients first, corporations and the filthy rich.

    August 7, 2012 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  3. Larry

    In 2005, 29 Republican governors, including Mr. Romney and Mr. Huckabee, asked Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, for more “flexibility to manage their TANF programs and effectively serve low-income populations.”

    “Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work,” the letter read.

    This is exactly the action Mr. Obama has taken.

    August 7, 2012 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  4. Sean

    "In 2005, Romney signed a letter along with 29 other state governors to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, calling for greater state flexibility in managing their TANF programs"

    It's really crazy how Romney keeps trying to criticize Obama for things that Romney himself has previously expressed his support for. I can't believe it, but I can't wait for the debates. Can you imagine it?

    August 7, 2012 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  5. Sean

    "In 2005, Romney signed a letter along with 29 other state governors to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, calling for greater state flexibility in managing their TANF programs"

    It's really amazing how Romney keeps trying to criticize Obama for things that Romney himself has previously expressed his support for. I can't believe it, but I can't wait for the debates. Can you imagine it?

    August 7, 2012 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  6. Triple A

    You don't have to tell them, they have already figured out that they won't have to work under the "spread the wealth" President. Why do you think he is still so popular with the Democrats.

    August 7, 2012 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  7. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    More code for simpletons. Nothing about the welfare for oil companies and the rest of the campaign "donors".

    August 7, 2012 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  8. Chris

    So let me get this straight – the Republicans are upset that the Obama administration wants to give more power back to the states and are loosening up burdensome federal regulations?

    Does the hypocrisy of the GOP know no bounds?

    August 7, 2012 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  9. Get Real

    Gee, not making people have to try to find a job while on public assistance, wonder what idiot thinks that plan is a success. Sounds more like buying votes.

    August 7, 2012 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  10. Marie MD

    You know what the news is here – that the twit bully bishop has actually stood by ONE thing he ver did or said!

    August 7, 2012 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  11. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    What specific requirements are being waived? What is the benefit receiver not being asked to do? GIven the current economy where there are people who are qualified to do one level of work are going down to a lower level of work, it doesn't seem unreasonable to let the requirement slide for 1 year. It should be reinstated soon after there is a large amount of job growth (250,000 per month for at least 3 months)

    August 7, 2012 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  12. Marry

    Romney has said what he will do: "…eliminate every nonessential, expensive program he can find (for people in need)…"
    While at the same time he enjoyed every loophole he could possibly find “according to law” and did not pay a penny more – because he would not be qualified to become President (in the eyes of his super-rich friends) if he paid what he fairly should?????????????????? “…as far as he can recall…”
    Now, Romney tries to run on “he knows how to create jobs”. Why should we assume a plus of 12 000 000 in 4 years? Or could it be that he means to say on the tried and failed GOP plan, it would be more likely to lose 12 000 000 jobs in 4 years?
    He will run to change the tax system? So the super-rich will have to pay even less as under the staked system we have now? Because Romney has the worst and unethical record anyone can imagine!!!! But, we know, Romney’s lack of honesty, ethics, and values are all Presidents Obama fault! Right!!!! There is no shame in the party of “NO”!

    August 7, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  13. charlesName

    Romney will end welfare and will let people go hungry and he will not care.

    August 7, 2012 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  14. g

    shipping jobs overseas and replacing them with food stamps bad idea

    August 7, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  15. n

    Where are those taxes?
    Romney you have yet to answer to a lot of conflicting claims and issues concerning your professional life as a business man and politician that are very disconcerting. And it behoves me to the point that I am compelled to pose the question as to why half of this country and news media seem to turn a blind eye to getting to the bottom of the old bait and switch game. From congress to the so called journalist, no one seem to be doing their jobs. This country is going to the dogs and we the people are being taken for a car ride on the roof tops of lies locked in a cage.

    August 7, 2012 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  16. Here we go again

    Flip Flop!

    August 7, 2012 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  17. Jim

    Let me get this straight, the GOP keep harping that the federal government is taking the place of the state government in things like regulations. According to them this is a horrible thing and the states should decide how to do things. Now they are whining that the federal government is letting the states handle this aspect of the welfare system and that's a horrible thing. Romney, himself, signed a letter requesting that his state be allowed to do exactly what they are complaining about now.

    What color is the sky on GOP World?

    August 7, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  18. King

    here comes mitten and his in distortions and lies again.

    August 7, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  19. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I remember the saying after the lies about the WMDs, "George Washington never told a lie, George Bush never told the truth." Who would have thought that Mittens would be an even bigger liar? I do not believe the Mormon King of "Cut and Splice" tape editing will do anything to attract independent voters, but it sure does appeal to his base of hate and extremism.

    August 7, 2012 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  20. quinLee

    "pointing to past support from Republican governors – including Romney – for waivers to the federal requirements."

    In other words, this is just another hypocrisy and lie ad from the Republicans. "Welfare" is a proven trigger word to get the sheep fired up to vote against their own interests.

    August 7, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  21. jesse james. take them to street and shoot them like the dogs they are

    You guys want to take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich. That is called rommey hood.

    August 7, 2012 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  22. Rus

    This is such a blatant misrepresentation – the change doesn’t affect the vast majority of the program, and permits the flexibility that governors have asked for (including Romney). Why should we believe anything in these Romney ads? – like the one where they left out the ‘roads and infrastructure’ part of the ‘you didn’t build that’ quote, implying that the owner’s business was the subject. Shameful…

    August 7, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  23. Toby McDooogan

    This is HUGE!!!! Obama is giving America away.

    He is buying votes by keeping people dependent on the government.

    August 7, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  24. Jerry

    So much for Mr. Obama emulating President Clinton. What I am having a hard time fathoming is why Mr. Clinton continues to kiss Mr. Obama's butt when HE is gutting one of Mr. Clinton's signature accomplishments. Oh well...I guess it's a birds of a feather thing.

    Or could it be that Mr. Clinton NOW likes to "Bend Forward", too?! Umm...

    August 7, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  25. Mack

    So give them a job Mitt...oh wait your companies only hire in China and India.
    If you want to raise my taxes I'd rather the money go to the poor than the rich. Its called compassion but you would have to be human to understand that.

    August 7, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
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