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. Wake up people

    Stop trying to blow smoke up our rears Willard. Release the taxes. And those of you that feel you have a right to President Obama's transcripts when no other POTUS has been asked for them can kick rocks. Too bad though I would love to see shrubs. Willard refuses to do the one thing every other candidate has done starting with his own father. He doesn't seem to be a qtr of the man his father was. Poor guy has probably turned over in his grave so much, he's probably in China by now.

    OBAMA 2012!

    Can you imagine how the righties would have acted had this been then Senator Obama?? Money in offshore accts, refusal to follow the same rules all other candidates have and a $77,000 dancing horse tax write off. We would never hear the end of it.

    August 8, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. Four and The Door

    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...
    _____________________________________________________________________________________________
    Hey, Obama/ Biden 2012 finally found someone who buys that dribble they tried to create about Bain Capital! You make them happy. Their $250 million effort here was not completely wasted. Even Bill Clinton didn't buy those lies.
    He said Mitt Romney was a fine businessman. He was correct. Mitt Romney and Bain Capital saved tens of thousands of good American jobs so far doing it the old fashioned way. By investing, creating sensible business plans and by running companies responsibly. In fact, if Solyndra had gone to Bain Capital instead of the White House for help, they may still be in business. And the federal government would be $500 million plus better off. And America might still have a solar panel manufacturing industry. But Solyndra had better connections ( wink wink ) at the White House than at Bain.

    August 8, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  3. v_mag

    I have a simple question for Four and the Door: How is Mitt Romney different from George W. Bush? After all, his policies, insofar as he has stated them, are identical to Bush's, and those led to an economic disaster. He's even endorsed publicly by all the Bush men.

    Follow up questions: Why would any sane person vote for a George Bush clone?

    August 8, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  4. mop

    **** Boris of New Jersey

    Wake up America!
    Vote socialist out before USA becomes Union of Socialist Americas.
    -------------------------------------------------

    The kind of "socialism" practiced in America is this.
    We all pay taxes.
    Our taxes are then used to build roads and bridges, schools,
    Fire stations, police departments and infrastructure.
    That is American socialism.

    You seem to have a problem with that,
    but you will be the first one to call 911 when your house is on fire.
    You dont like socialism ?
    Put the fire out yourself.

    August 8, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. jack johnson

    One way to shut both parties up is to bring both OBAMA and ROMNEY in front of congress and SWEAR THEM IN UNDER OATH this would stop the lies, or they face purgery charges, and that would end their chances of ever running again.

    August 8, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "You dont like socialism ?
    Put the fire out yourself."

    Yeah, after he digs his own dmn well though...he's certainly not using the municipal water suplpy that I pay for.

    August 8, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. Carl

    If you go to the fact checking site referenced in the article, the difference in true/false statements between Romney and Obama is really not that much.

    August 8, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. Duke

    drod, I need to amend this a little bit.

    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. Foxnews ingnores any coverage of the truth and continues to push the line. But just before a media frenzy fox stops reporting the lie and moves back to Solyndra or Fast and Furious.
    7. 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 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. v_mag

    DB said: "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."
    --
    I heard the report about how many jobs are going unfilled, but the reason is not that people prefer to stay on welfare. It's that the jobs that are open do not match the skills of the people looking for work. The Repugnant Congress refuses to act on any bills that would help these folks get the training they need to get these jobs, and companies aren't going to hire unqualified people. This is part of the stated Repugnant strategy to keep the economy from recovering in order to defeat the President.

    August 8, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. kathy/Minnesota

    Mitt Romney knows this "IS NOT" true but the man is simply running out of gas. I find it odd he didn't mention the state's asking for the waiver are GOP states. I think it is time to add some other options into the welfare to work program, these are hard times and sometimes things need to be tweekd.

    August 8, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. John

    I consider myself to be very consevative in my values but I would never vote for a man who is as dishonest as Romney. My life improved since Obama took office and no snarky comments from internet trolls for Fox News can change that. To all of the maroons who say that life will be terrible if Obama wins the election – Please feel free to leave the country. This is, after all, what you say to Democrats, isn't it?

    August 8, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. B.

    People my age lived through all of this Welfare trash talk from the Republicans before Several times in their attempt at stirring up the hard core Re-thugs and their racist mentality base.

    How about trying some other trend for the mindless masses that reinforces their -US and Them- thinking or, hey, how about thinking about helping ALL Americans do better... like understanding that We are All in this mess together?

    Evolution takes a very long time.

    August 8, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. coy4one

    The Romney campaing understands one thing....that people are too busy texting, emailing, twittering, and talking on their phones. They know that this campaign is going to be based on soundbytes because people can't, or are unwilling to take the time to research the facts. Therefore, we are most likely to elect a President based on who is most successful with their bytes, not by achievement or experience.

    August 8, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. Four and The Door

    v_mag
    I have a simple question for Four and the Door: How is Mitt Romney different from George W. Bush?
    ________________________________________________________________________________________
    Sorry, v_mag, but Obama/ Biden 2012 doesn't get to try and run against George W. Bush again. In fact, they never beat him the first time. George W. Bush was defeated by an adversary much more ominous and difficult than Barack Obama.
    Term limits.

    So now that Obama/ Biden has 3 1/2 years of experience, why don't they run on that instead of running from it?

    August 8, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. kraven

    Nearly all senators and congressmen have offshore accounts. The reason for this is so that they can spend some money without it going through a media wringer. Obama may or may not have one however Obama was only a senator for 2 months before he jumped on the presidential bandwagon while this is not enough to make him wealthy enough to need an offshore account he was able to use it to jump into the ranks of the millionaires. He talks about how he is one of the rich guys he wanst to over tax however the only way he got there was through deception and other things that someone who did not have the immunity of a senator would have gone to jail for like insider trading.

    August 8, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. blake

    Romney is being extremely gracious. Obama is not flexible on the truth. He is a compulsive LIAR. He will say or do anything to get re-elected.

    August 8, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. Chipster

    This is just another case of Republicans intentionally misleading their constituents. The HHS memo clearly states "HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF." Many State governments have requested flexibility to deal with special circumstances in work requirements in instances where parents have unusual circumstances. Perhaps a single parent with a disabled child is in a situation where it would cost more to have someone care for a child than a single parent can earn, even with a full time job. There may not be many such challenges but the states have asked for the ability to modify programs or develop new programs to meet these types of special circumstances. Such programs must still meet TANF requirements and follow certain guidelines to allow the waivers. But Romney's accusations are false.

    August 8, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. Larry L

    Why wouldn't a person who lies as much as Romney cheat on his taxes? He's obviously hiding something terrible or he'd release the taxes and make Harry Reid look foolish. At this point it appears Reid is telling the truth.

    August 8, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. jack johnson

    Hey everybody don't worry Mitt just ordered another case of ETCH-A-SKETCHes.

    August 8, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. Duke

    Romney's entire campaign has been nothing but lies, clicks of Obama speeches taken out of context, and dog whistles.

    Everytime he get's caught in a lie, he moves to the next one. But not before demanding an apology for catching him in last lie. And now he's stirring up the ghost of Willie Horton. This is shameful. Obama just asked for his taxes because he wants to know why Romney has offshore accounts.

    August 8, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. VVVVVV

    Politifact must selectively pick what gets put up there. They pick obvious statements the President said was false and leave others alone. I saw them rate something Romney said as False because he didn't state all the facts. Geez... no politician states all of the facts and figures when campaigning. I think Factcheck is a better checker than Politifact. Politifact leans left as evidence by their omissions.

    August 8, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Four and the Door

    Yes, Mitt Romney was a good businessman but he was never a job creator. Bernie Madeoff was also a good businessman and he madeoff with millions of people's hard earned money. I agree Mitt was a job creator but the problem is those jobs were created in foreign countries for profit. let's face it, Rafalca Romney is better off than the average middle class person and she is sure living like a happy healthy welfare queen.

    August 8, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. lindylou123

    Of course, Romney is telling lies again and again, over something he supported. He signed a letter when he was governor urging that states have more waiver rights over the work demand for welfare. He and the GOP have no ethics or morals or self respect , it seems, for the will lie about anything. God Bless America and God Bless Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

    August 8, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. Donkey Party

    Rick Santorum – "Romney is the worst Republican candidate ever".

    Newt Gingrich – "Yes, Romney is a liar".

    Jon Huntsman – "Romney changes his positions like a well-oiled weather vane".

    Ann Coulter – "If we don't run Christie, Romney will be the nominee, and we will lose".

    Hmm, with friends like that...

    August 8, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. Jules

    Romney stands by that pants on fire lie, doggone it. He's not flip flopping on this lie. Do you think he believes in the Ten Commandments?:

    August 8, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
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