Santorum says Obama 'potentially' could gut Clinton's 'signature achievement'
August 9th, 2012
12:31 PM ET
2 years ago

Santorum says Obama 'potentially' could gut Clinton's 'signature achievement'

(CNN) - Republican attacks against the Obama administration's changes to the way states administer welfare programs continued Thursday, though leading surrogates for Mitt Romney seemed less certain than when the attacks began that the changes would definitively end welfare's work requirements.

Speaking on a conference call organized by the Republican National Committee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum would only say that the changes would "potentially" gut the work requirements, a charge President Barack Obama's administration denies.

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"This president obviously is orienting his administration to weaken this work requirement and potentially gut this work requirement," Santorum said.

Santorum pointed to what he said was a "pattern" by Obama of increasing "government dependency," saying "the idea that they are going to strengthen this work requirement is absurd." He said that pattern led him to believe work requirements in welfare would be altered by potential Obama administration changes.

Another former contender for the 2012 GOP nomination – former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – similarly toned down his remarks on Obama's welfare changes Wednesday, saying on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" that there was "no proof today" that the welfare changes would result in a gutting of work requirements.

"We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama's ideology it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing," Gingrich said.

When Republican attacks on the welfare changes began on Tuesday, the charge against Obama was dire – a television spot from Romney's campaign and the RNC said "President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements."

Representatives for Obama pushed back on the charge, saying it misconstrued the changes enacted by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"The HHS guidelines have made clear that no waivers would be granted unless the states could demonstrate that they will increase by 20% the number of individuals who are moved from welfare to work," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Romney himself showed no signs of backing away from the charge that Obama's changes were "gutting" welfare work requirements on Thursday, saying on the Bill Bennett Morning Show Obama was "taking out the work requirement in welfare."

"The impact for the poor in this country, and for the future of this country, is severe," Romney said. "I think the American people are very disturbed by a policy of removing work from welfare."

The directive in question 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 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.

On Thursday, Santorum called the law Clinton's "signature achievement," noting he was involved with the measure's passage as a senator from Pennsylvania.

"We did it, as you ultimately see, in a very bipartisan way," Santorum said. "We got, I think, seventy votes in the Senate. And of course, Bill Clinton, after opposing it, came around to understanding that this was what's best for America. Best for people. Relying on themselves for work."

"All of those things aren't harsh, they're not mean, they're the kind of things necessary to have people be able to provide for themselves," Santorum added.

Romney said on the Bill Bennett show Obama was "not a Bill Clinton Democrat," and slammed the president for "undoing Bill Clinton's signature law."

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Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama • Rick Santorum
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. cali girl

    Lies, Lies, Lies yeah. It holds no water, Santo. All the claims are false.

    August 9, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Tony in Maine

    Sanctus is still running around the country screeching and making his nose grow, ike most Republicans – were it not for lies, he'd be mute.

    August 9, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  3. GROVER NORQUIST IS AN ENEMY OF THE STATE

    All the republicans are on the same talking point and they are making fools out of themselves. If you want to talk about "government dependency," talk about corporate welfare and millionaires and billionaires getting tax breaks they don't need.

    August 9, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of OBAMA FAILURE

    Obama has been great at reducing the number of people in this country looking for a job. This is just one more way to do it. Pretty soon we'll all be on welfare and Warren Buffet and Bill Gates will be the only ones paying income taxes.

    August 9, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. Thomas

    And this is BS. States requesting the ability to govern their own welfare so they can investigate alternative solutions is something that ROMNEY HIMSELF signed up for. Romney then planned to REMOVE the back to work timeline.

    August 9, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. Michael Hobart

    The TANF waiver requests which have caused such right-wing uproar are from Nevada and Utah. It is hard to find a more Republican state than Utah, as Romney well knows. He also endorsed the idea of states getting waivers to tinker with the program to try to improve welfare-to-work results when he was Governor of Massachusetts. I'm sorry, but it shows once again how he may be on all sides of all issues :-( It is useful to listen to former President Clinton who pointed out that when the work-to-welfare program was being crafted, there had been waivers granted to 44 of 50 states so that they could all experiment with different approaches. I am sorry to say that this once again demonstrates that the Republicans will oppose anything(!) Obama does, irregardless of the merits. Sad...

    August 9, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Mark

    The Romney camp doubles down on STUPID...again....

    August 9, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  8. Rob

    Romney's unfounded claims about Obama's welfare policies, especially provisions to accomodate Republican dominated states, are a further sign that the GOP must rely on negative campaigning, as selling tax cuts to the rich, deregulation that leads to more oil spills and mine collapses, banking and wall street corruption is nearly impossible. Notice there's no complain about the millions of dollars in corporate welfare congress gives to oil companies and big conglomerate farmers. GOP relies on lies and misinformation, shows no interest in the welfare of all Americans, and compromises both government and truth to further quick profits for their big money donors.

    August 9, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Btw, Santorum, since when did you care about welfare?

    August 9, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. Pam from Iowa

    and why is anyone listening to this FORMER Senator?
    Time to go sit in the corner Santorum!

    August 9, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. Doreen Johnson

    Goodness...are Americans really golng to be stupid enough to elect a Republican president – especially this crowd?

    August 9, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    What a fetid load of froth.

    August 9, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  13. Darryl

    Just what we need, Rick Santorums advice and opinion. He's an Idiot if their ever was one.

    August 9, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. Al-NY,NY

    the wheels are already falling off on this winner.....yesterday it was "You don't have to work, just sit back as Obama dismantles the system so you can mooch." Now it's "potentially." If this wasn't so pathetic, it would be funny

    August 9, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "The directive in question 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. "

    And of course CNN fails to continue the sentence to include the explicit requirement, stated quite clearly by the Obama administration, that in order to get the waiver, the state has to demonstrate that their alternate methods will be effective in getting people back to work.

    And let's not forget that the Obama administration has also pointed out that the temporary nature of the assistance...the time limit...is NOT subject to waiver.

    But hey, good job reporting in a manner designed to exacerbate the controversy instead of explaining why it's garbage, CNN. Heck, even Newtered is ahead of you by admitting there's no proof of Mittens' claims. Kudos.

    August 9, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. REG in AZ

    "Santorum says", those words alone should be enough to turn everyone off as was demonstrated in his bid to be the nominee.

    August 9, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. Sandra

    Not one challenge here from CNN in this article that shows the fact checking that clearly says this is a 'pants on fire' statement. Disappointing that no one calls out these things.

    August 9, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Making false, incendiary remarks still renders you irrelevant, Mr. Santorum. Next!

    August 9, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Santorum is just simply trying to scare people.

    August 9, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    The fact of the matter is that Republicans have already gutted the economy.

    August 9, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. Marcuscassius

    Obama could "Potentially" gut the Constitution and destroy the last copy of Magna carta and steal the Mona Lisa and magically ruin the flavor of peanut butter.

    It's more likely that Santorum (Interesting what you get if you add two "I's" to his name) will continue to lie and obfiscate and vote No.

    August 9, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. Bill

    What a joke.

    August 9, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. open400

    Another GOP lie. Bill Clinton has been on TV to clear it up. The GOP like to bash welfare, then in the same breath rtalk about Christain values. The values about compassion to the poor and needy is quickly forgotten.

    August 9, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  24. Jane

    Um, no it wouldn't. Because (as Ricky and the Pubs knows damn well) this legislation DOES NOT DO what the Republican ads falsely state. Sheesh, is the Romney campaign capable of airing anything that's not an out and out lie? Guess not, since Mitt began his campaign with an ad about the President that was (as they love to say) Demonstrably untrue.

    August 9, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  25. Ken in MD

    Romney may "potentially" destroy the world economy (like Bush did).
    Obama may "potentially" save the world economy.

    Let's play more with the word "potentially". It's so meaningful.

    August 9, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
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