Welfare debate gets back to work
August 8th, 2012
09:26 AM ET
2 years ago

Welfare debate gets back to work

(CNN) - The debate over Mitt Romney's latest welfare claims against President Barack Obama continued Wednesday, with both campaigns releasing dueling web videos and spokespersons from each team holding their ground in the snowballing battle.

An independent fact-checking organization, PolitiFact, rated a new Romney ad as "Pants on Fire" Tuesday, following calls from the Obama campaign labeling the spot as "dubious" and "completely false."

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The ad attacks a recent Obama administration directive issued via memo on July 12. The directive allows individual states–which have received a waiver from the Health and Human Services Department–to experiment with changes to their federally-funded welfare-to-work programs. 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 program affected by the directive – the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – was created by the bipartisan welfare reform law signed by former President Bill 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.

In Tuesday's ad from the Romney campaign, a narrator 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 narrator continues. "And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare."

Romney doubled down on the welfare charge Wednesday, highlighting how when Clinton signed the bipartisan welfare reform bill into law in 1996, then-Illinois State Senator Obama opposed it.

"Back at that time, then-Senator Obama was opposed to putting work together with welfare," Romney said during a campaign speech in Des Moines. "Just a few days ago, he put that original intent in place. With a very careful executive action he removed the requirement of work from welfare. It is wrong to make any change that would make America more of a nation of government dependency."

Romney neglected to mention that Obama had changed his position since then. When he ran for president in 2008, Obama said he supported the landmark legislation that required work training for Americans receiving government assistance.

"It worked better than I think a lot of people anticipated," Obama said at Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback forum four years ago. "And one of the things that I am absolutely convinced of is that we have to have work as a centerpiece of any social policy. Not only because, ultimately people who work are going to get more income. But the intrinsic dignity of work, the sense of purpose."

Newt Gingrich, who worked with Clinton to pass the reform in 1996, further bolstered the welfare offensive Wednesday on behalf of Romney. On a conference call with reporters, the former House speaker hurled charges at the Obama administration, saying it was using "radical" methods to alter the welfare-to-work program as part of a liberal agenda.

He also used the opportunity to drive a wedge between the 44th and 42nd presidents.

"There's just a remarkable difference between Clinton and Obama," Gingrich said. "In many ways, Obama is the anti-Clinton."

But Obama's campaign, the White House and former President Bill Clinton all pounced on the new Romney commercial Tuesday, saying the claims were false and misleading.

But Obama's campaign, the White House and former President Bill Clinton all pounced on the ad Tuesday, saying the claims were false and misleading.

"The Romney ad is especially disappointing because, as governor of Massachusetts, he requested changes in the welfare reform laws that could have eliminated time limits altogether," Clinton wrote in a statement, making reference to a 2005 letter signed by Romney and 28 other Republican governors to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, calling for greater state flexibility in managing their welfare programs.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul, however, indicated Wednesday the ad would not be going away anytime soon and defended the campaign's claims.

"It President Obama didn't want people to think that he was going to waive the central worker requirement in welfare reform, his administration shouldn't have written a memo saying it was going to waive the central worker requirement in welfare reform," Saul said on CNN's "Starting Point."

She continued: "They can issue blog posts, and have surrogate statements saying that's not what they meant, but the memo still stands and hasn't been revoked."

PolitiFact, however, suggests the Romney campaign misinterpreted the "waiver" provision outlined in the HHS memo.

Translating the document, Liz Schott, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told PolitiFact that the memo meant, "If you can do a better job connecting people to work, we would consider waiving certain parts of the performance measures and use alternate measures."

Further doubling-down on their claim, Romney's team released a new web video Wednesday morning, which argues Obama is "taking the work out of welfare." It points to top Democrats–including Sen. Carl Levin, Sen. John Kerry, and Vice President Joe Biden–who supported the 1996 reform bill, but the campaign states that Obama recently "dismantled" the program.

Obama's re-election team also launched a new web video Wednesday, citing reports and fact-checks that label the Romney claims as untrue. It highlights the part of the new directive requiring that governors "must commit that their proposals will move at least 20% more people from welfare to work" in exchange for more flexibility granted by the waiver.

Speaking on CNN's "Starting Point," Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter sharply took issue with Romney spokeswoman Saul and her comments earlier in the program.

"I think that I would take President Clinton's word over Andrea Saul's word any day," Cutter said, pointing out the 20% requirement in the new directive. "She apparently hasn't read the memo, but that's not unusual for the Romney campaign. They don't care about the facts."

– CNN's Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • HHS • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (348 Responses)
  1. Jack from Illinois

    Important political tip for RawMoney and whoever on his team came up with this:

    When you quote someone in an ad/statement/campaign spot, better make sure that someone is on board with it.

    August 8, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  2. Jules

    What you really mean is the GOP lies rage on and Mitt Romney is right up there telling them out of his so called Christian mouth. How about Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness?

    August 8, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  3. Jules

    Liar, liar, pants on fire is what the Romney ad was rated by independent fact checkers.

    August 8, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  4. mark

    And Romney wonders why his numbers are dropping.

    Both sides really need to stop the mudslinging.....

    August 8, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  5. IF YOU SIGNED GROVER'S PLEDGE, YOU ARE A TRAITOR TO THE U.S.

    The Romney campaign is distorting the truth as always. Let's get back to what we should be focusing on: Where is Willard's tax returns from the past 5 years.

    August 8, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  6. Sniffitt

    How can we let welfare go on the way it is currently managed? This is horrible and a waste of money only to buy votes by keeping people dependent on the government.

    August 8, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  7. harvey 60

    Mitt Romney = Welfare for the Rich

    August 8, 2012 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  8. beevee

    Romney's pattern of telling the american voters seems to be telling only half truths like he paid taxes, but he will not tell whether he paid taxes in a fair manner. Should we trust him as president of this country is a vexing question.

    August 8, 2012 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  9. harvey 60

    Mitt: Wouldn't have to work, they just send you the check. That's what you did in the one year where you released your tax returns. You didn't do any work and they sent you $20 million. And you paid 13.9% in taxes. Slimeball.

    August 8, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  10. Thomas

    In 2005 Mitt Romney along with 28 other republicans requested the ability to amend the welfare act and control it at the state level, just like nevada now requested and the government agreed to. Mitt Romney also proposed to REMOVE the timeline as to the end of unemployment benefits.

    There is almost no truth in any ads released by Romney at this point. Why isn't there some sort of penalty for lying on national TV?

    August 8, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  11. RealityBites

    What Obama said VS What Obama meant, did and didn't do
    What a pitiful legacy...

    August 8, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  12. ExRepublican

    Please republican party tell Romney step aside he is maken our party look bad.
    Romney is the biggest liar. I will not vote for a liar.
    Romney need to get rid of his staff.

    August 8, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  13. GI Joe

    Romney is a pathological liar. Not just the ads put out by the people trying to buy this country, HE lies on the stump every day. Bald-faced, blatant lies that can be debunked in 5 minutes on the internet (I know, I've done it).

    It's a shame the republicans have become so lazy that they just listen and never double-check.

    I don't trust Rmoney 2 feet.

    August 8, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Another misleading ad from the Romney campaign. This has been the pattern from the start, beginning with a misleading ad of then Sen. Obama quoting Sen. McCain.

    August 8, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  15. lies from the right but mostly hate

    Didn't mitt use government money ie. welfare to buy companies out when he was with bain capital?

    August 8, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  16. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    Just under 90 left to go and America won't have to see Willard's ugly face or hear his outrageous lies ever again because he will be long gone from the pages of politics and from the TV screens of every news station on earth.

    August 8, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  17. Indy

    Romney tells another lie,but that is hardly news as Romney has been on a tour of lies and hate for seven years now. It is amazing that he can lead this type of life of lies and yet be a high standing member in his Church

    August 8, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  18. King

    every one in the country knows mitten is a lyre, but his biggest problem is spinning the truth. here is a man that blame this president of every thing that goess bad in america as if he was a dictator. yet, he refuse to say anything about the most worthless and destructive congress in this nation history. he goes around the country encouraging his repubs governors to say that their economies are doing bad so he can blame the president, he encourages his repubs congress to block every thing that will benefits the people to blame Obama. I wonder how gullible these people are to put the bush policies back into play, that almost destroyed our nation.

    August 8, 2012 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  19. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Unlike George Washington who never lied, Mittens never told the truth. I would think it will take more than $2 billion in lying negative ads to get Mittens elected.

    August 8, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  20. enuff

    Why are the republicans, who tried so hard to impeach Clinton, now trying to tie themselves to his accomplishments? Do they not realize that he is a democrat? Why aren't they trying to use Bush/Cheney accomplishments to support their platforms? Anyhow, despite their use of this as a distraction, I still want to see Romney's taxes. What's he hiding?

    August 8, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  21. Four and The Door

    "It President Obama didn't want people to think that he was going to waive the central worker requirement in welfare reform, his administration shouldn't have written a memo saying it was going to waive the central worker requirement in welfare reform," Saul said
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Obama was caught pretty much red-handed in this sleazy election year maneuver. And how can you question his intent when it is so consistent with his approach to government assistance: "Come and get it! Courtesy of Uncle Barack."
    He is gutting one of the most effective reforms the federal government has ever had. The amazing thing is that the reform was not meant to save money. It was meant to actually help the recipients in ways that are more important than just sending them a check. And it was working well. Apparently that doesn't matter so much when Obama/ Biden 2012 finds itself on the ropes in a losing campaign against a much more qualified opponent with stronger support.

    August 8, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. Russ

    An independent fact-checking organization, PolitiFact, rated a new Romney ad as "Pants on Fire" Tuesday, following calls from the Obama campaign labeling the spot as "dubious" and "completely false."
    ----------------–
    So we want someone that will tell bold faced lies and deception as our President. You can not trust Mittens. He is in this in hopes of keeping his rich friends rich at the expense of the middle class. He so afraid that another Obama administration will cut into his vast fortune.

    August 8, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  23. Greg

    Romney is running out of pants he has burned so many.

    August 8, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  24. demwit

    There was NO memo saying Obama was going to waive the central worker requirement in welfare reform. Oh wait...

    August 8, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  25. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    The magic underwear is useful for Willard who constantly has his pants on fire with lie after lie, hypocrisy after hypocrisy, flip-flop after flip-flop.
    He was for states' rights regarding welfare when he was Gov of MA, now that he's running for President for Pete's sake, he's against it (only is this instance of course), but when we circle back to healthcare, Romneycare was supposed to be a model for the nation when he was Gov of MA, but now that President Obama has done so, well now we're back to states' rights being a good thing....Willard has spun himself dizzy.
    And still, answer the question: have you ever paid less than 13.9%? You were happy to look into that and get back to us. However, you've proven to be less than reliable for telling the truth, so we'll go all Reagan on you and trust but verify. Show us your papers Willard, what are you hiding??!!??!?!?

    August 8, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
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