Welfare debate gets back to work
August 8th, 2012
09:26 AM ET
6 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. v_mag

    Four and the Door, I'll be so glad in November when that door hits Bain Brain in the butt on his way back to Utah or Boston or Mexico or wherever he came from. He can join his buddy George W. in obscurity on the planet Kolob where they may ponder their sins.

    August 8, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  2. Yvette

    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 |
    I guess you are one of those lower thinkers. This is a Lie and you believe this........know the facts. Rep is the one that believes in big government. Food for thought.......Women Rights, they want to control us. Talking about Big Gov. So don't get it twisted. Please put your thinkers cap on............

    August 8, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  3. truth hurts

    v_mag - Actually, he was defeated by Al Gore,
    Not according to all the vote totals. 12 years and you still can't accept reality?

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

    And you STILL haven't answered how Obama is any different than Jimmy Carter. Both miserable one term failures.

    August 8, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  4. Jimi u

    I have multiple sclerosis and cml leukemia I live on 600$ a month yes I get state help for rent and yes food as well first off any one of you live on less then a grand a month and then make your complaints the welfare program is the problem make it hard to get and harder to stay on it. You want drug tests I'll do it I'm just as tired as you of seeing a brand new car roll up with 6 kids dressed in three months of what I get walk in to a welfare office and come out with four times what I had to fight tooth and nail to get I'd gladly donate time to a local government office to help pay back what I get so go down to your local welfare office and spend a day in the parking lot watching and then you will see the problem first hand when you see that new car roll in think of people like me who depend on others to get to a doctor that keeps me alive what's left of my 99 escort is to expensive for me to fix but those new cars keep rolling in the welfare office to get there car paid for by tax dollars better spent somewhere else

    August 8, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. LittleBearCB

    NonCNNViewer: Unlike Fox news who's total 'facts' are based on 'hear-say.' You know what is mean 'SOME PEOPLE SAY...' PolitiFact verifies arguments from all sides as part of their assessment process. Sorry, a fact is a fact.

    August 8, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. Name InkScratcher

    Look all mitt is trying to do is get the focus off him releasin his tax returns. What he is sayin in this attack is already proven a lie.... Mitts taxes however... Just release em if u have nothing to hide

    August 8, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @ Tazzie

    Its true that the only Presidents to add more than 10 million jobs were Carter, Reagan and Clinton. But one important fact to add to that scenerio is that neither of those three Presidents ever inhrrited two wars and an economic crisis simultaneously or period or had to deal with a divisive and disruptive congress bent on seeing that they and the country fail. That is a very important variable that cannot be ommited.

    August 8, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Al-NY,NY

    Boris of New Jersey

    Wake up America!
    Vote socialist out before USA becomes Union of Socialist Americas.
    BO is taking this country to the socialist cliff.
    Will you be so cheerful then ?
    Wake up, open your eyes because Obama counts on your ignorance of history.
    Save America from the socialist or your children and grand children will be standing in the long line for food in the future marching in formation under the red flag.
    Far fetched?
    No. Just a scary possibility.
    God bless the USA.

    courtesy of the new American Taliban party...the GOP

    August 8, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. SFRich

    This is an obvious smoke screen, but it's not enough to hide the fact that Romney is an empty suit.

    It makes one wonder where the GOP is going with this. The American economy was off the cliff as a result of Bush's unfunded war and tax cuts. It happened on their watch, but the residual effect will linger for many years. Spending power of the middle class has shrunk, while millions are out of work and their homes. I'd bet a good amount of those who've lost everything they've spent their life working for have even had to look to the government's welfare programs.

    Yet, despite all these underlying causes, the GOP thinks it's wise to talk about welfare and social programs. REALLY??

    August 8, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    @Four and the Door: " 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."

    Here it is, brought to you courtesy of REALITY AND FACTS (i.e., you'll never see this on Fox):

    1. 4.5 million jobs created over the last 29 months, including positive job growth in the private sector
    2. 532,000 manufacturing jobs added since January 2010
    3. 1+ million jobs saved as a result of President Obama's auto industry rescue policies
    4. 1,095,000 jobs created in Bush’s eight years, from January 2001 to January 2009; compare this to the more than 1.8 million jobs in 2011 alone.

    Do we need more job creation? You bet – by the time GW Bush left office, our economy was shedding 800,000 jobs A MONTH. President Obama's policies have been slowly turning around our economy, and we'd be doing even better if Repub governors hadn't laid off 600,000 public sector employees (if they hadn't, unemployment would be around 7%). All these laid-off employees are also diminishing demand for goods and services, which is what drives our economy.

    So, Four, unplug Fox, stop lying, do a little research, and get behind our President. If you choose to vote for Mittens, you are voting for all the FAILED POLICIES that brought our country's economy to the brink – and you should be ashamed of yourself!

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice

    August 8, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  11. Fortinbras

    It will cost much more to peddle lies than it will to tell the truth.

    August 8, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    @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."

    Hear, hear! Don't get complacent; the GOP is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, from requiring government ID where none was required before, to moving up voter registration dates to keep college students from voting.

    All you Dems, Independents and thinking Republicans need to be sure to GET OUT AND VOTE on November 6,
    2012 for President Obama and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate!

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice

    August 8, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. truth hurts

    maybe obama can waive all the requirements for everything? those pesky citizenship requirements are holding back all those democrat voters invading our country. oh yeah, he's already done that. maybe obama can just waive the doma requirements to? oh yeah, he's already done that. maybe obama just rule by decree like fidel castro? Oh yeah, that's coming in his second term.

    August 8, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    Many things dont' require a "brain" in the manner you're thinking...race resentment and fear are two really big ones."

    My bad, I meant to say WORKING brain.

    August 8, 2012 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. Mark

    We have to be careful of Romney. He would destroy this nation and the people. He is for the rich and big corporations. His tax plan would increase taxes on the average person and lover them on the Rich. He is like Robin HOOD.

    August 8, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. Mittens Rmoney

    Me and my fellow Republicons are all for more states rights, unless of course Democrats propose it. In fact, if the Democrats proposed to cut all government spending except for defence, we would immediately declare it as socialism. You see, we Republicons have no ideas of our own, we're just against anything the other guys are for.

    August 8, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. once upon a horse

    Somehow I noticed in the ad that when Mitt was talking about working folks they all happened to be WHITE then he goes on about welfare.......why the GOP has top play these cards when they are falling behind is beyond me. Meanwhile as Mitt lies the horse just keeps danicing on and on!

    August 8, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. Donkey Party

    Let's just skip the foreplay, and engage in civil war already. I'm pretty tired of the level of insane ignorance, delusion, and racism from the right, that I think it's fair time we eradicate them and their diseased ideology once and for all. It's the only solution to move the country foward.

    August 8, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. Wilson

    "Applicants are failing drug tests," she said. "Some apply and then decide they want to wait until their unemployment benefit runs out before taking a factory job."
    Here is a problem not necessarily created by Obama, but he is continuing to enable it. If "unemployment benefits" worked like they were supposed to, these people would not be able to "wait until the benefits run out," before getting a job.

    August 8, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  20. 91 Days until Obama is RE-ELECTED

    @truth hurts – maybe obama can waive all the requirements for everything?
    IIRC -isn't that the Grand Obstructionist Party's policy on all things business? No wonder they are trying to buy the Nov elections. It's so funny to watch you right wing nuts squirm, reduced to name calling since you have finally realized that the Party of No, has no viable candidate, no policies or economic plans to fix the economy (except to trash it further) and no chance in Nov... Hahahahaha! Thanks for playing today.

    August 8, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  21. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Unfortunately for teapublicans, they cannot call us liberals liberals anymore because thank God half of your base is now coming over to America's side and joining the progressive Democratic party. Now what shoud we be called? Perhaps Liberators of Democracy!!! Obama/Biden/Roberts 2012!

    August 8, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  22. Learntoread


    We all pay our taxes–yep, about 50 % all in–with fed, local and state + SS and health! You want to be President then simply let us know what you are hiding!! Did you really pay NOTHING in 08 + 09 ? Wow! that's amazing....with a 20 million dolllar income...must be those HORSES!!! ( I know RICH people don't like paying taxes–i get it ...)

    August 8, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. JohnW

    I remember back when Clinton passed the welfare to work law I was conducting job interviews for a large company that needed to hire 1000 workers in 1 year. Over half of the applicants had not worked in 5 years they had been drawing welfare and simply chose not to work. Once the law forced them off welfare they went out and got a job. Now Obama has rolled back the law and people can simply go back on the government teat with no need to get a job.
    Congratulations on your complete lack of reading comprehension. I'm sure your mother is proud.

    August 8, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. Romney=NO plan

    It amazes me that people are so blinded by their hatred for Obama, that they will vote against their own interest. Mitt Romney wants corporate welfare, has no plans, and refuses to release his tax returns. Is this the only guy that the Republican party could find? What a shame!

    August 8, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. SugarKube

    Obama is a typical liberal. Free welfare for all. It's disgusting.

    August 8, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
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