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. ebraiter

    People must be really dumb to believe these attack ads. Come on. [not part of an add] "If Obama is re-elected he will increase the national sales tax..." but offer to facts to back it up. – Of course these ads are being aimed at the less educated out there.....

    August 8, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  2. Jack

    Romney is an agent for the Plutocracy. Vote Obama. Simple stuff.

    August 8, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Jeb

    Yet another blatant lie from Romney.

    August 8, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. Sean

    Interesting that Obama has several Pants-On-Fire ratings from the same site and you have never reported it. Hell, Reid got a Pants-On-Fire rating from the same site for the allegation he made that Romney didn't pay taxes for 10 years, but in all of your reporting of that this is never mentioned.
    Your liberal bias is becoming even more apparent....as if it wasn't obvious already.

    August 8, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  5. Daveinil

    My independent fact checking org says Politifact is biased for Obama and hardly counts as independent.

    August 8, 2012 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  6. Democrat Party

    Democrat lie

    Economy die

    August 8, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  7. Name Nov 6

    I think a lot of people are tired about this campaigning and a lot of them wish it was Nov 6. People are correct that this is a defining election as it will define America for sometime to come and future elections. This election is far more important than 2008.

    August 8, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  8. Lando

    Pure and simple, the Mormon church requires mandatory 10 percent of their follower's income. He refuse to disclose his income tax for two obviousl reasons: Aside from evading and
    paying taxes, he does not want additional church contributions....the IRS will hunt and Joseph Smith and the whole congregation will haunt him...

    August 8, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  9. Boss = Wealthy

    I wonder if all of you libtards actually talk like this to your bosses (i.e. the evil, wealthy villians who you claim rape and pillage the middle class). Or do you thank them for your job and for paying the lions share of the taxes that fund the roads that you drive on to get there?

    August 8, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. Lisa P

    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
    I wonder if his plan is to just wear us out so we don't even bother to call him on them anymore? That truly would be a sad day for America.

    August 8, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. Dot

    Everyone is missing the point with Romney – If anyone thinks that the Mormon church is not presently influencing Romney and his campaign they are just as deluded as the mormons are. They ultimately will weigh in on any decision he makes.

    August 8, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. betterdays

    Now if states could just get a waiver from Obamacare.

    August 8, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. Wake up people

    I can't believe people are stupid enough to listen to a man that changes positions the way most of us change our underwear. How can you take up for him when he himself doesn't even know his position? I implore you all to be honest and remember the Bush years, remember congress stating their #1 goal was to make President Obama a one term President, remember the rethuglican party saying NO to absolutely every proposal the POTUS made. And also it's 2012 not 1812.

    This man is a flat out liar and if this is the way Mormons act. I'm glad I am not friendly with any of them.

    OBAMA 2012!

    August 8, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. v_mag

    Does it strike anyone else funny that most Obama supporters acknowledge that he has not fully met our expectations, whereas Romney supporters never admit that their candidate has flaws? Personally, I'm very disappointed that Obama has not turned out to be very progressive in terms of all he gave away on the health care bill, the fact he didn't have Bush/Cheney arrested for war crimes, Gitmo is still open, and a lot of Bush policies have not been changed. However, compared to Romney/Bush, he is much better.

    On the other side, though, we see the righties backing Romney as if he were their perfect candidate, despite the flip flops, lies, double-talk, influence peddling, and so forth. He doesn't match the expressed values of hard-core conservatives at all, but they still unaccountably support him strongly. That makes me think that the righties are not voting on principles or religion or any other reason but that he opposes the President. That leads back to a deeper reason hidden in their crocodile brains for why they hate Obama...

    August 8, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. Wilson

    """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.""""
    We are. An undisputable fact; there are fewer people working now than there were when Obama was elected. His policies are obvious failures.

    August 8, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. Larry L


    My independent fact checking org says Politifact is biased for Obama and hardly counts as independent.
    Of course you're not saying Romney didn't lie – which is obvious. Conservatives tend to blame the media whenever something is published contrary to the Republican Party-line. You're lucky to have Fox News – known for it's Rasmussen Poll for results to make you feel good and it's "unblemished record of honest and unbiased journalism"!

    August 8, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. JLFuller

    PolitiFact is as guilty as anyone when it comes ot half truth nuanced logic so don't go throwing a bunch of newspaper people's "research" at us being the epitome of virtue.

    August 8, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  18. saraph

    We should all be very afraid of the white horse prophecy. Search for it online and then tell us if you still want to surrender your government to Mitt.

    August 8, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. flavoter

    This is what the Republican base wants not facts just tar and feathers hate talk pumps them up. Lies are just matter of fact. Look at their talking heads (Rush, Beck, Hannity and it goes on and on. They have been lying continually wherehave you all been. The worst part of it is it's been happening since before Obama and still know one calls them on their lies.

    August 8, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  20. Dems Need to Grow a Pair

    Sniffit, Woman in California, Lynda/Minnesota, Larry L, Think Again, Wired S.F.......You guys need to get jobs before you implode from accelerated insanity! If the American people rationalize the political landscape and vote based on your raves and rants, we're doomed. Were you people not loved as children? Take a deep breath and hold it.

    August 8, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. Dennis, Millbrae, CA

    Romney is flexible on welfare, truth, facts, policy. etc. It just all depends on who he is talking to at the moment and which way the wind is blowing that day. His campaign motto ought to be "Semper Gumby"–always flexible.

    August 8, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  22. Jimm


    Now if states could just get a waiver from Obamacare

    If you read the law, they can. All they have to do is to find a better way to get people insured.

    August 8, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. nc_mike

    Good lord, giving states more power is exactly what the Republicans want. Are they saying now that they want a BIGGER government by their opposition to this change? Mitt's campaign is blatantly lying on this one – As I understand it, the nexw reuls mean that a state must has to be granted 1) and waiver and 2) only if the state can reduce the welfare role by at least 20% – which is even better. If the waiver isn't granted, then the same work requirement is in force. What is the GOP smoking? Outright lies.

    August 8, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. JWR

    The republican congress along with Michelle Bachmann don't want Americans to work! They salivate at the idea of welfare under President Obama's administration. Let's keep in mind they want to make President Obama a "one-term" president. They are suppressing job growth just for that reason. Remember Senator McConnell's main priority and objective is for President Obama to be a "one-term" president. This is from their own mouths. Their republican party leader; Rush Limbaugh has stated he wants President Obama to fail. They don't care about America. What they don't understand is that good will always win out over evil. Obama-Biden 2012!!

    August 8, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  25. Kweso

    This Mitten just doesn't fit.

    August 8, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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