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. v4865

    There's no truth to what to what Romney is saying. Plz VOTERS GET THE FACTS
    AND DECIDE FOR YOURSELF WHO'S THE BEST PERSON TO PROTECT
    OUR COUNTRY ...JUST VOTE!!!!!DON'T SIT HOME ....

    August 8, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. Really?

    "She apparently hasn't read the memo, but that's not unusual for the Romney campaign. They don't care about the facts.."

    Really? and what about Obama and the lies about Joe Soptic and his wife; looks like his campaigners. Looks like they are the ones who don't care about facts! Especially, the fact that the economy under Obama is disastrous.

    August 8, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  3. NoLongerRepublican

    At least Obama isn't crying for an appology. Romney Hood would be up on his high horse (pun intended) demanding an appology right now.

    August 8, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  4. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of OBAMA FAILURE

    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."
    =========================================================================================

    So why is a "translation" necessary in the first place??? Why doesn't it say what it means? I think Obama has gotten caught in his own lies here. He's looking for every way in the book to get the unemployment rate down and there is no limit to the smoke and mirrors he will use to do it. He's a deluxe con artist. Just like the new jobs numbers they put out every month AND THEN REVISE DOWN as they release the new imaginery numbers.

    August 8, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. petena

    Romney Money thinks he can say anything because of all the dirty campaign money coming his way. He is trying so hard to buy people's votes with lies.

    August 8, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. DAVID

    this cover up man needs a new name to go along with his very paid for lies! how about along with " ROMNEY HOOD WE ADD TRICKY MITT"?

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

    Willard Mitt Robmy is totally learning-resistant.
    His campain developing more and more into compleat joke. GOP stop please and bring another candidate !!!

    August 8, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  8. snowdogg

    Reply to Steve

    "Mitt lies and Conservatives are okay with that."

    Sad, but true.

    August 8, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  9. Ken in NC

    We Democrats are so proud of Mitt Romney. As one of President Obama's stuanches supporters, he has done everything possible to insure the re-election of Obama and we thank him for that. He has displayed more positions than an above average hooker. He has flipped as many times as he has flopped and told enough lies for his nose to circle the earth and connect with the space station. He has done everything possible to insure the Republican Party looks like a bunch of buttholes and set them back into the 1940's with their convictions and beliefs on everything from education and civil rights to womens rights. We shall always remember him as the man that single handily destroyed the Republican Party for Democrats. Thank you Mittens.

    August 8, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    Mittens and Republicans are such hypocritical liars!

    "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."

    Mittens wants to eliminate the Dept. of Education and other agencies, all in the name of giving states more local power and flexibility in implementing programs. Yet, when President Obama DOES JUST THAT, Mittens and the GOP immediately lie in an effort to slam the President!

    HOW CAN ANYONE WITH A BRAIN VOTE REPUBLICAN IN NOVEMBER?!?!?

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice.

    August 8, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  11. lexgreen

    Just can't separate the "Myth" from Mitt.

    He would make a great governor for Newt Gingrich's "lone start" lunar colony.

    August 8, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  12. Woman In California

    I wonder if Willard has figured out what "that stuff" was he bought yesterday. This guy is so ignorant and dishonest that he doesn't even know we KNOW it. The more he keeps trying to wrap his stiff arms around us – the more people are running away from him and I can only hope he keeps this circus going all the way to November when we reelect our current president.

    August 8, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  13. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Four – For two years you have been telling everyone that government does not create jobs, now you say Mittens will create more jobs for teachers, firefighters, and policemen. Mittens said that Obama was out of touch for saying the same thing. I will say that Mittens has one of the best circus acts in modern history, but as a candidate, he is a disaster.

    August 8, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    @vbscript2: "Saying that Romney didn't pay taxes for ten years? Do they really think people are stupid enough to believe that?"

    Two things: 1) If you think there aren't wealthy individuals and corporations that don't pay any taxes, YOU are the stupid one (and completely in denial about how the US tax code has been twisted to favor those with wealth).

    2) Mittens can instantly prove his innocence by releasing his unamended tax returns. His refusal to do so (or delay so he can try to amend them) only lend support to the allegation that he did NOT pay taxes the last 10 years.

    August 8, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. MaryM

    Another BIG lie from Romney on the welfare.

    I am sure romney is a good business man. He said he likes to fire people.
    The problem is America is NOT a business and can NOT be run like one.

    August 8, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. DAVID

    one thing is for sure if america puts this man in office it well save payroll in the white house because i bet he on his own could tell an even bigger WMD story with a straight face than the last story tellers group!

    August 8, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Mittens knows how to lie, hide money, game the system to get $100 million in an IRA, outsource government jobs to India, shred records of the payouts from the $1.2 billion government bailout of the Salt Lake olympics, erase government hard drives in MA, retroactively retire from Bain, and keep his list of foreign donors secret.

    August 8, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. drod

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    SOURCE: Natzi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels

    August 8, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  19. Jeff - Sarasota, Florida

    @ Four and The Door "Mitt Romney understands well how the economy works"

    Mitt Romney has no clue how the economy... He know how to strip a company and make a profit while defaulting on Government (taxpayer) loans and laying people off with nothing...

    These are facts... Bain's M O was to take over a company just barely breaking even or on the brink of failing... Then cut beneits to the worker... Get Government (taxpayer) loans for the company and then over the course of time slowly drain the assets into Bain and bankrupt the company and default on the Government loans without paying them back... Those are FACTs... Government loans are a matter of public record as they are taxpayer money... Check and see how many companies Bain took over that got loans they defaulted on...

    Yet Bain and Romney, always made money off those companies because the companies had to pay Bain first...

    So, that is how Mitt Romney thinks the economy works...

    It amazes me how ignornt people just seem to believe whatever they are told and never want to check or believe the facts...

    August 8, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  20. Pander Bear

    You mean Romney's not telling the truth!? I'm shocked I say shocked!!

    August 8, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  21. Paul

    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."

    August 8, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  22. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    Me thinks that Mitt believes if you tell a lie long enough and often enough it can become the truth. Sorry Mitt but a LIE is a LIE no matter how you try to defend it and it's about time more people call you out on it. Because if you are untruthful about one thing why should I trust you on other things?

    August 8, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Really? and what about Obama and the lies about Joe Soptic and his wife"

    If you can't fathom the distinction between these 2 things, then you need to do more homework:

    Mittens' CAMPAIGN is telling these lies and the PARTY is backing them. They've even lined up Netwered to spearhead the effort.

    The Soptic thing is from a PAC, which are prohibited from coordinating with the campaigns in any way. If you'd like to criticize Obama's campaign for not criticizing the Soptic thing, that might be closer to legitimate...if it weren't for the fact that Crossroads's ads makes the Soptic thing look like a little white lie and Mittens has never once criticized Crossroads' advertisements.

    August 8, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "Four – For two years you have been telling everyone that government does not create jobs, now you say Mittens will create more jobs for teachers, firefighters, and policemen. Mittens said that Obama was out of touch for saying the same thing. I will say that Mittens has one of the best circus acts in modern history, but as a candidate, he is a disaster."

    One word: DOUBLETHINK.

    August 8, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. maestra730

    The "pants on fire" analogy is CNN's juvenile, puerile take on things, not Mitt Romney's. Admittedly, both Presidential candidates (indeed, politicians in general) leave MUCH to be desired; however, please do not use CNN articles as your sole source of information. CNN, like most mainstream media outlets, coddles and protects Barack Obama and ultimately spins everything (and I do mean everything) in his favor. Truth and actual facts are secondary.

    August 8, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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