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. Meka

    McCain chose Palin over Romney...That say's a lot about Romney!

    August 8, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. Sniffit

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

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

    August 8, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. Khaleeshi

    Why does Romney only offer lies and distortions of President Obama's work – where is his plan? Oh yeah, more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Romney Hood strikes again...

    August 8, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Kenny K

    Mr. Romney may have avoided paying taxes over the years by acquiring distressed companies and used such companies NOL carryforward for himself. This allow him to get distributions tax-free.

    See IRS section 382 limitation.

    August 8, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. drod

    The “Fox/Newsmax Effect” relies on these six steps to create national controversy in order to manipulate the viewer’s opinion.
    1. The first step of creating the “Fox/Newsmax Effect” is to have Conservative activists introduce a lie to the public.
    2. The next step Fox/Newsmax News devotes massive coverage to the story presented.
    3. From here Fox/Newsmax News goes on to attack other news outlets for not covering the story.
    4. Given that these outlets want to remain creditable, they too start reporting the story introduced by Conservative activists.
    5. Now that it seems that Fox/Newsmax News was first to the story they are praised by news critics and pundits for their media coverage on the topic.
    6. The last step, which is the conclusion to all of this, is that the story dies off after the damage has been done.

    August 8, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  6. Joyce E Neal

    Even President Clinton had to make a statement that Romney is not being truthful & that Romney requesed the same waiver when he was Gov; Romney is just wanting to take the heat off the fact he is not releasing his tax returns; the American people will not be lied or fooled by this ploy

    August 8, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Eddie The Barber

    Romney is at least consistent – He consistently lies. If he's elected, he'll make Richard Nixon look honest and we'll have George w's economic policies combined with a worse than Nixon lier. Spread the work – we can't take a chance with this decietful man.

    August 8, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  8. Four and The Door

    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.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________
    The federal government does not create private sector jobs... the ones that pay the bills so that the public sector jobs ( teachers, firefighters, policemen, etc. ) can continue. But, as the Obama Administration has proven, the government absolutely can keep the private sector from creating jobs. That's easy. Over-regulate, threaten tax increases, spend money they don't have and increase debt and generally create an anti-business environment so that private companies lose confidence and have difficulty justifying hiring commitments. Mitt Romney knows well how this works. Barack Obama has never worked for a private company and thinks companies just hire when customers have money. huh?

    August 8, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. Doc_Hollywood

    All Romney can do is tell lies and hide his taxes. And to those of you who scream "look at the economy under Obama", look at what was handed to him. And the fact the over 4 million jobs were created during this time when there was unprecedented job layoffs in the government sector speaks of how well he's done with this disaster. Obama is far from perfect, but he's a far better choice than Romney.

    August 8, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. FreeLove

    This is backfiring and blowing up in Romney's face big time

    August 8, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. Randy, San Francisco

    Judge Romney's character and truthfulness by the number of times he or his aides have to explain or spin a verbal gaffe.

    August 8, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. 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.

    August 8, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  13. drod

    Mitt and the Republicans still do not understand that the only people that you are making a fool of are the Faux-Noise drones that make up a big chunk of their base. They don't understand that the American people have not forgotten the Bush\Republican experiment that caused the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The American people have not forgotten and will never trust Republicans ever again.
    Obama 2012

    August 8, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Four and the Door

    I doubt for one minute that Mitt Romney knows how the economy works. First and foremost, I'll overlook the fact that he ranked number 47th in job creation in MA. Let's face it, at Bain Capital, Mitt's job there wasn't to create American jobs but rather to make profits for his investors. There's a difference between an invester or banker and a job creator. And Mitt didn't create one single job as CEO of Bain because he bankrupt many companies, shipped jobs overseas and made large profits he didn't earn fairly.

    Secondly, for two years on the campaign trail, Mitt has been telling the American people over and over and over that as President, he would create millions of American jobs by lowering corporate taxes and lifting regulations. But I'm afraid that those practices were in full force for 8 years under the previous administration and yet, we didn't end up with a stable and thriving America. No, instead we ended up with the worst economic crisis in America since the Great Depression. Obama/Biden/Roberts 2012!

    August 8, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  15. Mor Man NO!

    No morman for President, the don't believe in John 3:16, that's the facts!

    August 8, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  16. Boilermaker

    i wish people would stop using the word socialist since they clearly dont know how to use it in the correct way.

    August 8, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Redleg

    A man of Roney's character would be a lieutenant earning getting fragged with his captain not being too upset. Can't private business show us better than this?

    August 8, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. jim

    Why don't we just kill the poor and be done with it?

    August 8, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. Mike

    Here's facts for you.. More people on welfare than ever before in history.. High unemployment.. Government spending out of control.. Both sides more divided then ever before and less trust in government. Obama is a failure as president.

    August 8, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. BLKMANinAmerica

    drod
    Mitt and the Republicans still do not understand that the only people that you are making a fool of are the Faux-Noise drones that make up a big chunk of their base. They don't understand that the American people have not forgotten the Bush\Republican experiment that caused the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The American people have not forgotten and will never trust Republicans ever again.
    Obama 2012..........................................Romney didn't really experience any problems with cash like the 99% did, in fact he and all those 1% ended up with more money.........DISGUSTING! WE (working America) WILL NEVER FORGET.....EVER!

    August 8, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. Bosco

    The GOP has gotten so used to lying that they can no longer distinguish the difference between the truth and their own fabrications. They actually believe some of this stuff.

    August 8, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. emma

    Romney lacks honesty, integrity and logic about how he can magically make this country prosperous for all levels of citizens. It is obvious he says what he is told to say, but ultimately it is his accountability that is at stake. Romney is not the answer to our problems. Especially troubling is his obsession for power and control.

    August 8, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Far fetched?
    No. Just a scary possibility.
    God bless the USA."

    Thanks for the humor! Now if you could just get off your "socialist" fetish and take a long, hard look at candidate Mitt Romney. Truthfully speaking, Romney is definitely the more "scary" of the two. I don't know, it might be his "superiority" attitude of never doing anything wrong.

    Egomaniacs generally aren't open to suggestions that differ from their own ideological idolatry, and Mitt Romney has broken the meter on idolatry, i.e., putting self first.

    August 8, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  24. DB

    Here is the headline from CNN "Northeast Indiana: Hundreds of factory jobs go unfilled" this is because poeple on welfare are depnend on government and once this welfare stops I believe they get up and find the work.

    August 8, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. Pam from Iowa

    "I don't care about the poor" says Mitt Romney

    August 8, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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