Romney set to assail Obama for welfare changes
August 7th, 2012
05:00 AM ET
8 years ago

Romney set to assail Obama for welfare changes

(CNN) – Changes to welfare pushed by President Barack Obama's administration are providing his Republican challenger Mitt Romney with material for a new round of attacks, including a television ad released Tuesday.

The changes, which would allow states greater flexibility in administering their welfare-to-work programs, came in a directive issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in mid-July. At the time, some Republicans claimed the new rules amounted to a "gutting" of work requirements for welfare recipients, which were a central element of the bipartisan welfare reform law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

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In Tuesday's ad from the Romney campaign, an announcer 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 announcer continues. "And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare."

Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the welfare ad was one piece in a larger push to highlight the Obama administration's changes to ways states administer welfare.

"Middle-class Americans are working harder and harder to make ends meet," Saul wrote. "Under President Obama, they have fewer jobs and less take-home pay. And now, President Obama wants to take their hard-earned tax dollars and give it to welfare recipients without work requirements."

Romney, she wrote, "would restore the work requirement in the welfare law so that recipients know the dignity of work instead of the dependency of a handout."

The Obama administration directive, issued July 12, allows individual states to experiment with changes to their welfare-to-work programs, which are federally funded. 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 welfare-to-work program affected by the directive – the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – was created by the welfare reform law signed by 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.

The Obama administration argues the potential changes would help people move quickly from welfare rolls to paying jobs by reducing burdensome requirements, including excessive paperwork. Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, said Tuesday that any suggestion Obama was "gutting" welfare-to-work programs was false.

"Let me say that this advertisement is categorically false and it is blatantly dishonest," Carney said. "This administration's policy will strengthen the program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways."

He called Republican criticism of the changes "outrageous," pointing to past support from Republican governors – including Romney – for waivers to the federal requirements.

"The ad is particularly outrageous as Governor Romney himself with 28 other Republican governors supported policies that would have eliminated the time limits in the welfare reform law and allowed people to stay on welfare forever. Those are not standards the president supports," Carney said.

In 2005, Romney signed a letter along with 29 other state governors to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, calling for greater state flexibility in managing their TANF programs.

"Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work," the letter read.

In a memo Tuesday, Romney's campaign Policy Director Lanhee Chen wrote that Romney has remained consistent in supporting work requirements for welfare recipients.

"Because Massachusetts had implemented reforms of its own shortly before the federal reforms of 1996, it was actually exempt from many of the federal requirements when Romney took office as governor," Chen wrote. "But nevertheless, facing an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in one of the most liberal states in the country, Romney vetoed efforts to weaken work requirements and he pressed repeatedly to instead strengthen them and bring them in line with federal standards."

Obama's re-election campaign responded to the ad in a statement Tuesday, accusing Romney of "not telling the truth."

"The truth is that the President is giving states additional flexibility only if they move more people from welfare to work – not fewer. As Governor, Romney asked for even greater flexibility to waive the central part of the law by letting people receive benefits for an indefinite period and as HHS has said, his waiver request wouldn't be approved today because it weakened the law too much. By falsely attacking a policy that both he and his Republican allies have supported for years, Romney is once again flip flopping on a position he took in Massachusetts, and demonstrating that he lacks the core strength and principles the nation needs in a President," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.

Filed under: Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. stars

    Only ppl that want to keep ppl on welfare is the govern in the red state. I know Mississippi is one of those state I know so many ppl here that been on food stamps form the time Bush was in office the jobs here dont pay jack for these ppl to make ends meet and they work them like hebew salve. Wake up ppl before Rommey turn you state into another miss.

    August 7, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Dave Jaipersaud

    Romney's plan would cause 12,000,000 people to lose their jobs because he and the Republicans are promoting the exact same policies that caused the great recession, during which about 12,000,000 people to lost their jobs. Romney and the Republicans will then let the 12,000,000 unemployed die from starvation and sickness while they sleep safe, secure, well fed and sound at night. Great plan fat cat Romney.

    August 7, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |

    Where's your tax returns ????????the American people don't want to vote for a crook and tax cheat .

    August 7, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  4. enuff

    So which is it Romney? Are you for it or against it? And if you are against it, tell us WHY and tell us HOW you would fix it. It's giving states control over their own programs... isn't that what you wanted as a governor? Isn't that what you said you wanted for the healthcare issue? Isn't that what supposedly made your governorship so great? State's rights? The devil is in the details, and so far you are not giving voters any.

    August 7, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. Anthony

    It is getting to the point that Romney knows that he cannot shake his reputation of being a flip-flopper, so he will not even try to be consistent.

    August 7, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  6. WayneKilmer

    I thought the Republicans were all for moving decision making from Washington to the individual states? Isn't that their answer for abortion, immigration, etc.? But when the Obama administration agrees that the States are better position to innovate for themselves, the Republicans attack? Could the Republicans be any more transparent? They have no firm positions on anything; their platform consists of one plank: defeat President Obama at any costs – even at the cost of destroying the country.

    August 7, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. Ram Riva

    isn't that exactly what the GOP wants....more flexibility to the states??....Romney was for it now he's against it....depends who's saying it...if it's the President...then I am against it.....simple ....

    August 7, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  8. Indie in VA

    Why do conservatives get all up in arms over states' rights, right until a liberal gives states more rights?

    August 7, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
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