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. Learntoread

    Romney, Coulter, Limbaugh, Will, Bachman, Palin, Cantor, Norquist, Rubio, Trump, Santorum, Gingrich– the right wing "intelllectuals"?....honestly, does it get any more disgusting than this ? Who are the people falling for these madmen?

    August 8, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  2. 91 Days until Obama is RE-ELECTED

    @Four and The Door – You do know Massachusetts was dead last at 50 before Mitt Romney was elected, right?
    Why do you Repugs INSIST on making things up to suit your trolling needs. FACTS are FACTS!!
    MA was 36th in the nation before Robmey was elected. It was 47th when he left. That's what the GOP does to a state. You only have to look at TX, LA, GA and MS to see the impact... Thanks for playing.

    August 8, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. v_mag

    Truth Hurts seems to be hurting from a lack of truth. The Extreme Court stopped the lawfully ordered recount of votes in Florida and awarded George W. Bush the crown, er, presidency. Look up "Florida 2000 recount" on wikipedia and you will see that independent research determined that if the whole state was recounted, using 4 different methods, Al Gore rightly won the 2000 election in each case, which would have saved us 2 needless wars and the deaths of thousands, all of which is on the heads of Bush/Cheney and those who voted for them.

    August 8, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  4. sbreezy

    the GOP has decided to entirely abandon reality and hope that the american public buys their entirely delusional narrative. Im betting that the american public isnt nearly as ignorant as the GOP thinks we are and the best man for the job will win this fall: OBAMA 2012!

    August 8, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  5. FLIndependent

    @FedUpWith Poliltics – "When George W was president we had a Democratic majority in the House and a Democratic majority in the Senate and they are what led this country into the difficulties which we now face."
    Seems you're trying to rewrite history here and telling half-truths as Mittens does. George W had a record number of vetoes in 2007-2008 so nothing the Dems wanted to do got passed. Can't blame them for the 2008 downfall as the deregulation of the banks was still in effect from six years of Repub rule.

    August 8, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  6. Marty, FL

    Sadly, Romney has to be the most immoral candidate ever witnessed in politics. Pants on fire and Romney still repeats the lie for something he hypocritically advocated himself.

    Not presidential material.

    August 8, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  7. FLIndependent

    @jony – " 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."
    I see where our education system is failing us here...did you read the article? President Obama is not rolling back the law, that is the lie being told by Mittens. By the request of some Repub governors, including Romney, the President is giving control to the States. What is it you can't comprehend?

    August 8, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. JohnW

    Four and the Door, I see your "tax cuts work" and raise you two recessions and a depression.

    August 8, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Four and The Door

    "The best thing for the federal government's ability to increase payrolls will be for the economy to start growing and increasing government revenues."
    So you're saying trickle-down economics works? Please explain why it's never worked before? It appears the wealthy simply sit on their money, much of it offshore in tax shelters, only to reinvest when the working folks have endured the economic hardships and made the sacrifices. Your references to a low-regulation, low-tax, "free market" environment describe the period when the Bush Administration played fast and loose with our economy. You think the financial district need FEWER regulations? Really? The tax breaks from that cut & spend administration are still in place but jobs went down the toilet. Where are the jobs? The "trickle" never came down...

    August 8, 2012 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. v_mag

    This talk about the 2000 election brings up another pet peeve: the electoral college. Without it, there would have been no wrangling over hanging chads and mis-counted votes or an invasive Extreme Court. Gore clearly won the popular vote by over half a million:

    Bush: 50,456,002
    Gore: 50,999,897

    That travesty should never be repeated.

    August 8, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. Marty, FL

    Pres. Obama is actually enacting welfare reform requested by Republican governor including- wait for it– Romney. Disgusting hypocrisy indeed.

    August 8, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. Expat American

    Romney must like pickles.
    Because he finds himself in one every time that he paints himself into a corner of his own lies.

    August 8, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  13. FLIndependent

    @Truth Hurts who says Gore didn't win the election. Were you old enough to vote then? Al Gore WON the popular vote meaning MORE people voted for him than Bush. Bush's brother and his cronies on the Supreme Court gave him the Presidency and what a shame that was!!

    August 8, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  14. v_mag

    Bush – Republican, businessman, believes in tax cuts for the richest and deregulation, all for starting another war in the Middle East, out of touch with the middle class, foot-in-mouth, impaired intellect, lies his butt off.

    Romney – ditto.

    August 8, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @ Fed up with politics

    Again, the 110th Democratic Congress took office in January of 2008. The recession started the Spring of 2007 as a result of the reckless and misguided economic policies of the Bush administration. Furthermore, when the 110th Congress took office in January 2008, all republican polices were still in effect including the budgets for the Fiscal year 2009. And the majority of the legislation passed by the 110th Congress in 2008 were directed towards healthcare funding, pensions and jobs for our Iraq and Afghan war veterans returning from combat. Other legislation were for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and for care for our injured and disabled veterans. And when the 110th Congress wasn't busy looking after our war veterans, they were busy passing legislation for Homeland Security to safeguard our boarders and to clean up all of GWB and the GOP's mess. Please get your facts straight.

    August 8, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. Governor 47th In Job Creation (Excluding Off-shored to China and India)

    (A Very Confused or a Liar)Four and the Door erroneously wrote: You do know Massachusetts was dead last at 50 before Mitt Romney was elected, right?

    Bad case of Romneyitis. You are so very wrong and trying to spread more lies. Willard moved MA 10 spots in the wrong direction DOWN to 47th. You may have your own opinion, but you do not get to have your own facts!
    The issue of tax returns is not going away. Your pathetic candidate Willard needs to show us his papers.

    August 8, 2012 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. Really?

    Obama is conflicted. He knows people should work but he also knows if he can get more lazy people on welfare he can keep their vote and push his disastrous agenda. Smart people know what's going on with this president and his regime; the others could care less as long as they get their welfare checks.

    August 8, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  18. Really?

    @FLIndependent – Half truth and lies? Frank-Dodd – ring a bell?

    August 8, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |

    It's okay to...
    – be a "pants on fire" liar.
    – hide your financial records even though they prove you to be a tax cheat.
    – hide you money in offshore accounts.
    – invent Obamacare but now declare it a bad idea.
    – recently be pro-choice but now be "strongly" anti-abortion.
    – be a vulture capitalist.
    – promise tax cuts to all but offers no way to account for the loss in revenue.
    – promise to double the defense budget but give no specifics on how to pay for that increase.
    – promise to lower the cost of gasoline although we're drilling more now than ever before.
    – promise to repeal the healthcare law, and replace it with the same provisions except no funding requirements.
    – promise to give Social Security to Wall Street w/o regulations protecting investors.
    – promise to give Medicare to Wall Street and allow CEOs to regulate services.
    – threatens to use military force with no apparent understanding of the strategic implications.

    August 8, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. EffortPA

    With the economy the way it is and this is the best Romney can come up with to attack Obama. Wow, Obama must be doing one heck of a job then!

    August 8, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  21. hottpoker

    Not surprisingly he's been blurring the lines between fact and outrageous lies by the day. He's sounding much like Hannity, Beck, Rush and all the other bunch of his anti-Obama supporters where the truth doesn't matter.

    August 8, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. Jess Sayin

    Why does the GOP hate facts? Why do they hate truth? Why do they hate reality? Just keep repeating those big lies, Karl, until all of the weak-minded believe them. Oh–and don't forget to suppress the vote for good measure.

    August 8, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. GI Joe

    The Mormon church should excommunicate their lying Bishop. He is giving ALL mormons a very very bad name.

    August 8, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  24. HomeSweetHome

    Here we go again with the right using "code words" to get the Rep Base up set with select groups of people. To make them the heavy. While the devil (Rep Party) sits back and laughs.

    Never mind that the Rep Companies and Corporations are the reason the unemployment numbers are so high because of greed. They were the ones that off shored the JOBs so that they could pay lower wages, no benefits and no taxes in the United States.

    What we have here is the Rep Party trying to wake up its Base to say (again) it is the non-whites that have create this mess. It is the non-whites that are taking your tax money. It is the non-whites that are taking your jobs. It is the none whites that are making life difficult for you. Look around is this really true?

    The problem is "All" Americans are suffering because of a very few Greedy people that want things their way or the highway. They are the ones that paid for laws to be changed so that "All" Americans are paying more, working harder for lower pay or not pay. While a very few or racking in Billions while we suffer. It use to be they would only attack the non-whites but now they really do not care who they attack as long as they get what they want.

    They really do not care that their hate, bigotry and obstruction is hurting people.

    Please Rep Base if you are out there and you can read this, understand, it does not matter what color you are, whether you are Middle Class, Poor, Student, or Senior. We are all hurting because of the policies of a very few. Look at the numbers of people that are out of work this is not just one group it is all of us.

    The Rep Party thinks that pitting Americans against each other will give them what they want. Please, Please do not let them win. We have all suffered too long as it is.

    If the Rep Party were on the side of good we would not be in this mess.

    Remember "we all worked together" to pay down a 12 year debt created the the Rep Party and we created a surplus.

    We can do it again.

    August 8, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "Bush: 50,456,002
    Gore: 50,999,897

    That travesty should never be repeated."

    That's why the GOP is ever so busy trying to suppress millions of minority and youth votes.

    August 8, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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