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. Dan5404

    Romney and the other GOP candidates told the truth about each other, which is why none are qualified to lead our country. Now, it's nothng but out-of-context lies from Romney. about Obama That qualifies him as a politician and loser.

    August 8, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  2. sftommy

    Jobs, Taxes, The Deficit, Healthcare.

    Come on Mitt, let's keep focused.

    America wants to hear what the GOP is going to do about this great nations, great problems! You're crying welfare/workfare fraud when the GOP can't even create those new jobs, even with all the "tax breaks" they given their rich friends.

    Distract America as GOP dumps trillion in uncollected taxes on America's kids?

    August 8, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. NonCNNViewer

    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." (my caps)

    "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.""

    How can you call PolitiFact an "independent fact-checking organization" when their "facts" are coming from a progressive liberal origanization?

    Either the directive made the work REQUIREMENT discretionary or not... Yes or No? Looks like it did to me...

    August 8, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @fed up with politics

    You said when GWB was President, the Democrats controlled both the House and Senate and they're the ones who got us into this mess? Really? No, you're wrong. The 110th Congress took office in january 2008 and the recession which was the result of eight years of reckless and misguided economic policies under the Bush administration, began during the Spring of 2007. Furthermore, when the 110th Congress took office in January 2008, all Republican policies were still in effect including budgets for the Fiscal year 2009. And do you know what the 110th Congress were doing for the fiscal year of 2008? They busy cleaning up GWB's mess and passing over 300 bills with many of them directed at ensuring that Iraqi and Afghan war veterans returning home had the necessary combat equipment, the quality healthcare they deserve, the GI bill, programs for those afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrone and programs to accomodate and treat injured and disabled veterans returning from combat and funding to improve combat readiness. When the 110th Congress wasn't busy dealing with looking after our troops, they were passing bills for Homeland Security to ensure that we were safeguard against more terrorist attacks. Please get your facts straight.

    August 8, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. Boo

    Romney is rich (no not that kind of rich) with stupid remarks. He blames Obama for welfare but Romney's corporate cronies are shipping jobs overseas. What a pathetic joke!

    August 8, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. 91 Days until Obama is RE-ELECTED

    @Lizzie – like Pres.Obama said the small businesses are doing just fine, we are on the right tract, UP, on welfare, more people out of work, 20 additional taxes comming in the new healthcare law.
    -----------------------------
    And what exactly has YOUR wonderful Grand Obstructionist Party (the regained control of the House based on it's jobs, jobs, jobs campaign) done to help us get back on track ????? Hark.... I doth hear crickets chirping my lord !

    August 8, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. Susan NO LONGER a REPUBLICAN

    Gov. #47 in job creation for Mass. just show us your taxes!

    August 8, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. 1rooster

    Mitt Romney has gone old school playing the white race card called ' welfare'. Poor black people are on welfare. Poor white people get subsidies.

    August 8, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  9. Tazzie

    "Absolutely! Think about it. The best thing for the federal government's ability to increase payrolls will be for the economy to start growing and increasing government revenues. That's what Mitt Romney can do. Obama has tried for over 3 1/2 years now and just doesn't have the right strategy. The economy is very difficult to understand if you have such limited exposure to how it works. Mitt Romney understands well how the economy works."
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Since no president has ever had a four budget cyle of 12 million jobs added to the economy, I'll disagree with you regarding his knowledge of how the economy works. (by the way, the only three President's come have a 4 year budget cycle that added more than 10 million jobs were Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter). Since other Republicans have tried to cut upper class taxes and not seen a rise in government revenue, why should we believe that Romney can. Maybe if Romney would reveal a comprehensive plan instead of relying on dog-eared Republican talking points, I might actually be able to evaluate it fully. I would have to say that your post is the perfect description of insanity-keep doing the same things, but expect different results. After all, everything that Romney has advocated so far is a repeat of the same principles of the Bush philosophy, which got us into this problem in the first place.

    In conclusion, Romney may be telling the truth about creating 12 million jobs in the first four years. I notice that he did not say that they would be American jobs. He does have plenty of experience in creating jobs overseas.

    August 8, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. Four and The Door

    Jean
    I find it ironic that the party of small federal government, claiming to favor state solutions to problems, is criticizing an initiative to give states more flexibility in their methods of moving their own people from welfare to work.
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    This was welfare reform that had a huge positive impact on getting people who needed welfare back to productive lives. Obama basically gutted that progress and apparently hopes people know who their sugar daddy is when it's time to vote in November. One giant step backward for federal welfare reform. Obama sure doesn't care about that. It's 2012.

    August 8, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Tom

    Crafty Romney, requesting the changes for his state and then flip flopping in a drastic attempt to drive negative press away from himself. Clever, but sad.

    August 8, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. cashmeremafia

    I thought Republicans want the STATES to be more autonomous, now Romney doesn't?

    August 8, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. Tree

    How low can you go Mitt? We know it's not true, but you are playing the race card. And that my friend is not going to jive. It might work on the lower thinkers who have a problem with race just a another low blow.......... Am sick of people always want to play the race card. This is America in the 21st century. Shame on you !

    August 8, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Four and the Door

    You still didn't answer Tenisha's question...

    How does lowering corporate taxes create 12 million jobs? Following the jobs report this spring, Mitt Romney said "anything under 4% is unacceptable." But then three weeks later, he said as President he would reduce the unemployment rate to 6%. Hey Mitt, anything under 4% is unacceptable, remember? Troll!

    August 8, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. Pagie

    Lizzie

    Cali girl, like Pres.Obama said the small businesses are doing just fine, we are on the right tract, UP, on welfare, more people out of work, 20 additional taxes comming in the new healthcare law.

    You don't know what you are talking about to much of Fox News. Please know your facts before you posted anything. The internet is open 24 /7. Lower Thinker in the House!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 8, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  16. BriSoFla

    Romney is a LIAR!

    VOTE OBAMA 2012!

    DUMP the RepubliCANTS = the party of NO!

    August 8, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  17. PattyCake0806

    Enough already!!! Let's call for a moritorium on attack ads - I'd love to find out what each candidate PERSONALLY has to say about the issues.

    August 8, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  18. Vince

    Mitt, it's not Christian to lie. Mormon, Christian you all are members of cults. Weakminded followers who can't think for yourselves.
    Obama isn't that strong of a leader but at least he is likeable. The more people know about Mitt the twit, the less they like him.

    August 8, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. v_mag

    Four said: "George W. Bush was defeated by an adversary much more ominous and difficult than Barack Obama.
    Term limits."
    --
    Actually, he was defeated by Al Gore, but thanks to Cheney's buddy Scalia, he usurped the presidency.

    And you STILL haven't answered the question: How is Romney any different from Bush?

    August 8, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Lisa P

    Work requirement? I thought that up to this point the Romney partisans wanted us all to believe that welfare was a government handout with no restrictions except that recipients vote Democratic and be hopelessly dependent on government. And now that the Repiublican governors have finally gotten the waivers they requested, suddenly, no, no, from this point *forward* welfare recipients are all lazy stupid, hopelessly dependent Democratic voters who owe their helpless, hopeless position to President Obama because he didn't stop those Republican governors from... doing what, again?

    It often strikes me how much the "unemployed" Mitt Romney has in common with the favorite Republican stereotypes of welfare recipients: hasn't worked in years, entirely dependent on others to supply his livelihood, shameless in his willingness to accept tax money that could be better used elsewhere, bad money management habits and lots of poor spending decisions. But, hey, there's hope - at least Mitt is trying hard to land one of those cushy public sector jobs. And good luck to him - most other welfare-to-work recipients are permanently trapped at McDonald's.

    August 8, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. Four and The Door

    Susan NO LONGER a REPUBLICAN
    Gov. #47 in job creation for Mass. just show us your taxes!
    _______________________________________________________________________________
    You do know Massachusetts was dead last at 50 before Mitt Romney was elected, right? Probably not.
    Obama/ Biden 2012 left that part out. So you think Obama wants to run on job creation? Bring it. After 3 1/2 years and $trillions for "job creation", fewer Americans have jobs than when he took office. And many of those jobs are paying 30 or 40% less, too. If there's one thing the middle class doesn't need it's more of this brand of 'progress'.

    August 8, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. truth hurts

    obama is a product of the welfare state. is it any wonder he wants to grow it more and more? he truly believes it is big government that empowers everything in this country. and if you're on wlefare then the government has started to empower you right?

    August 8, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  23. Mike Texoma

    I am amazed at the sheer mendacity of this maneuver on the part of the Romney campaign. They have knowingly and intentionally distorted the truth. There can be no other purpose in this than that of misleading American voters. Voter fraud, big time voter fraud, starts with the Romney campaign.

    August 8, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  24. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    At the 2004 Democratic National Convension, Keynote speaker Barack Obama's infamous line was "there is no red America and no blue America...there's the United States of America." And sure enought, this election is not about black and white but rather about red, white and blue. Unfortunately the GOT sees it differently. During his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act designed to put Americans back to work. But prior to the President's address, many key members of the GOT announced in advance that they were boycotting the President's address because in their view, the President's jobs bill won't work. But the GOT didn't bother to introduce the an alternative that they believed would work. So just imagine when the American people face an uncertain future and the President asks congress to come together and find a way to help our nation through hard times, the people elected to lead were absent. Figure that out. But guess what? Both the CBO and independent economists across the country said the American Jobs Act would have created 1.9 million American jobs immediately. And when a bill was introduced by the Senate recently to increase the minimun wage, the GOT House fillibuster the measure. Hey, no wonder why so many Americans are still on welfare.

    August 8, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  25. Najie

    I hope the folks who are posting and are obviously in support of President Obama, do go out to vote when the time comes. Can't help saying it again: I never thought I would see the likes of another GOP contender for President that is more idiotic than the last GOP president. Actually, Bush looks like a darling to me now.

    August 8, 2012 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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