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. demwit

    "I think that I would take President Clinton's word over Andrea Saul's word any day," Cutter said

    Me too! Oh wait..., Was Andrea Saul found guilty of lying to Congress about a perverted sexual affair too?

    August 8, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. lol

    Theres no difference between the two parties. Both bend over to the same people. They both couldnt care less about this country. We need a vote of no confidence on the ballot. This election is rigged from the get-go both parties are the same

    August 8, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. snowdogg

    I am so sick of BOTH these jerks and the campaigns wallowing in the mud pit I could scream! The American electorate deserves better. Quit with the personal attacks and give us your plans – IN DETAIL – for your vision of America's future.

    August 8, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. Steve in texas

    They tell lies and we pretend to be outraged, but they're just doing what works. People are drawn to negativity, unfortunately. Just reading the posts on your average news station should be enough proof of that.

    August 8, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  5. Patriot Awesome

    Doesn't this give states more flexibility on how they handle their welfare? I thought the Republicans were for states rights. Romney is just so weird. I can't believe the Republicans are really running with this guy.

    August 8, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  6. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    If republicans finish off destroying our economy, the middle class, the poor, our government, social security, medicare, veterans benefits, police, teachers and firemen, will they then quit and leave America alone?

    August 8, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  7. MikeH

    Once again Willard Romney is caught in another bald-faced lie. And a race-baiting lie to boot. It's just a dog whistle out there that a vote for Romney is a vote for white purity of the Ruling Class. Romney wants to be Americas first Fuhrer. Ralph Reed will be his 'Goebbles'

    August 8, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  8. Keith

    "An independent fact-checking organization, PolitiFact: ... that's a good one.

    August 8, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  9. Mark

    I am not fond of either campaign, but on this one I have to think its the Romney side playing dirty. Not sure why they would go after this one though, there is nothing much to grab onto.

    August 8, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  10. jake

    Oh the gop are scrambling now just to keep their heads above water. The romney ship is sinking fast. Pretty soon you'll see the gop rats fleeing said sinking ship. romney got caught lying to the people and now he'll spend the next 3 months trying to backtrack. Just like the lying unamerican job outsourcing hipocrit he is. Obama/Biden 2012. Hillary 2016 .

    August 8, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. Bob

    Rmoney has based his entire campaign on nothing more than bald faced LIES.

    August 8, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  12. Tony Z

    I cannot wait for the debates. It is going to be unfair being confronted on ads and distortion of the truth. I want to know what you are going to do for this country. It seems like the Sarah Palin type made it to the top of the ticket.

    August 8, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  13. wm Scot

    If the Deomocrats can stay on message and continue to show that the republicans will do anything to get their men in office perhaps the folks will start to see the truth. We really need to get some moderates in congress and kill this radical tea party group !

    August 8, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. jpmichigan

    Instead of REALLY doing some thing positive about the expanding welfare rolls, liking helping with training and being able to get jobs, Obama kicks the bucket down the road , leaves an opening for the states to handle, then when the states serve out conditions to be able to receive welfare, Holder and ACLU step in to stop it. Obama truly believes in socialistic governing, and making people totally depended on the Federal government, it is his method of control and the Democrats go along with his physiology, but I am surprised that Bill Clinton would go along with it!!!!

    August 8, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Woman In California

    Willard is by far the most disgusting liar to ever run for office. Because he's falling in the polls, scared and with no where else to go he's now reaching out to the bigots in this country by trying to suggest "black dependenc"y on government is the president's goal. What a shameful person he is and I can't wait until his lying face disappears from the public once and for all.

    August 8, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. mommytwice

    Romney wouldn't know the truth if it walked up and bit him. His lies go all the way back to when he ran for Mass Governor, and I imagine also way before that. He is a pathological liar, and will say anything to anyone to get what he wants. Voting for him would be insane.

    August 8, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. Debby

    The Dems. go by Clinton the man was impeached. Why put him on this pedestol. He is just as much a liar as Reid is. Hillary I respect but her husband forget it.

    August 8, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  18. don

    Have no fear Mitt will have the opposite view on this subject in a matter of days.

    August 8, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    I don't know. After all the lies and innuendos, I wonder Romney can show his face on national T.V. Oh, well. Chalk it up as a good indication of just what type of President he'd make. Lies come easy to this man. Chances are, the lies won't stop. Best thing for America would be for ALL our media to start calling out his lies for what they are: lies.

    Anything less is an insult to America ... well, to the world as a whole, actually. We ALL have a stake in who might become world leader courtesy of American politics. Putting a known liar on center stage probably isn't a good idea, all things considered.

    August 8, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  20. Samuel Dijk

    "An independent fact-checking organization, PolitiFact, rated a new Romney ad as "Pants on Fire" Tuesday."

    Unfortunately, PolitiFact has shown itself time and again to be nothing more than a propaganda arm of the DNC. I read their "report," if you want to call it that. The writer assumes that everything the Obama administration and liberal say is true, while treating conservative criticisms as opinion.

    August 8, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. California Gary

    The fact that Romney would make up a lie and then defend that lie, rather than have to defend his tax returns, tells you a lot about what is in his returns.

    As for negativity....as long as it keeps working, they'll keep doing it. We get what we deserve.

    August 8, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  22. once upon a horse

    Mitt Romney was accused of running a dishonest campiagn by the Republicans in the primaries, Newt Gingrinch for one, so what makes people think he would not do the same against Obama. In just the past 5 days he has run two ads that where found out to be downright LIES and he still stands behind them. Yet when the president says something about him he doesn't like he wants an apology. I guess with right wingers even facts and the truth matter not, especially when you are aiming at what are called the "low information voters" these are the ones that jump at anything you say without checking out first if it is true or not. This is the group that follows FoxNews and the right wing talk shows like it's a religion. Bad thing about it is it WORKS!

    August 8, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. zaggs

    Well considering that politifact once said it was a lie to say it cost 275k per job created or saved by the stimulus because it cost 275k per job created by the stimulus, that gives an idea how accurate they are.
    Take for instance that 2005 letter supposedly calling for "greater state flexibility in managing their welfare programs.". The letter doesn't say that. it merely says the bill in question allows the states to be flexible, as they already were. But no where does it call for more flexibility.

    August 8, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. Jeff in San Diego

    You mean Romney did something as governor that he is now against while running for president – shocker.

    August 8, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  25. Thomas

    Allegations arise that 80% of Newt Gingrich's Twitter followers aren't real .

    Romney / Gingrich

    Adultery - Draft Dodger - Lying Corporate Lobbyist - Spending Spree at Tiffany's - Who Owns Him? - Divorce, Disease and Younger Women - Dead-Beat Dad - House Banking Scandal - Wannabe Dictator - GOPAC sleaze - Corporate $ to Newt's wife - Shady Book Deals - Sources - Quotes

    August 8, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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