August 8th, 2012
07:29 PM ET
10 years ago

Gingrich: 'No proof today' to back claims in Romney ad

(CNN)-Newt Gingrich again defended the Romney campaign's attacks on President Barack Obama's "gutting" of the nation's welfare system on Wednesday.

Asked by CNN on "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," if he believes the ad, released Tuesday claiming a directive issued by Obama would "gut welfare reform," is misleading, the former House speaker declined, further backing-up his former Republican primary opponent.

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The Obama administration issued a directive on July 12 of this year allowing individual states to experiment with changes to their welfare-to-work programs, which are federally funded, with the purpose to "challenge states to engage in a new round of innovation that seeks to find more effective mechanisms for helping families succeed in employment."

Following the Romney campaign ad, Obama staffers have pointed to a letter signed by then-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and fellow Republican governors in 2005 asking for more flexibility in state welfare reform. Of the letter, Gingrich said Romney was actually working to allow state legislature to increase work requirements from 50% to 70%.

Gingrich later toned down his support for the wording of the attacks in an interview with CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" saying, "I think if the ad makers had asked me I would have said, 'This makes it possible,' would have been a good way to enter into what it said."

Gingrich continued, "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."

Blitzer cited two Republican governors–Gary Herbert from Utah and Brian Sandoval from Nevada–who asked the Obama administration for more flexibility to better deal with welfare in their states.

To that, Gingrich said they weren't asking for those kinds of waivers and, "They both came out and said they were against what the Obama administration's done."

Of the apparent paradox in Republican ideology, Gingrich allowed that while generally conservative philosophy tries to lessen the federal government involvement in state issues, in this case what counted as work was being stretched beyond acceptability.

"On the issue of work requirement, we felt deeply and accurately and I think Robert would reinforce this that unless you made it a mandatory work requirement, it would get waived to a point where it became a joke. The American people overwhelming believe in the work ethic. And they overwhelmingly reject dependency on the government," said Gingrich.

Tuesday's ad accuses the Obama administration of dropping work requirements for those receiving welfare.

"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 in the ad continues. "And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare."

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has strongly pushed back, however, calling the attacks false and pointing to the part of the directive's requirement that states with the waiver must increase the number of people on welfare going into the workforce by 20%.

Gingrich was the House speaker in 1996 when welfare reform was signed under then-President Bill Clinton. Passed under welfare reform was a program–the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)–which would be affected by Obama's directive. The measure was deemed a win by conservatives, who long pushed for a provision that required work training for Americans receiving government assistance.

Clinton released a statement in defense of the Obama administration on Tuesday calling the Romney campaign ad 'disappointing.'

"Governor Romney released an ad today alleging that the Obama administration had weakened the work requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. That is not true," Clinton wrote, adding that the Obama administration had taken steps to ensure work requirements for welfare recipients were maintained.

To Clinton's response, Gingrich said that while he did work with the Democratic president to reform welfare, Clinton was not always right.

"First of all Bill Clinton I'm sure was contacted by the Obama White House or the Obama campaign," said Gingrich. "As I just reported a second ago, both those Republican governors disagree with being used by Obama as a defense for what he's doing," referring to governors Sandoval and Herbert.

Gingrich reiterated that he doesn't think Obama has the authority to waive the requirement adding, "the reason was candidly we and the conservative republican congress did not trust the liberal governors to actually keep a work requirement if they had a chance to do away with it. Look at everything Obama's done. Look at all of his commitments on food stamps, all of his commitment on increased commitment on increase dependency."

Earlier Wednesday Gingrich called Obama's methods to alter the program "radical" and as part of a liberal agenda.

"There's just a remarkable difference between Clinton and Obama," Gingrich said on a conference call with reporters. "In many ways, Obama is the anti-Clinton."

–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand and Ashley Killough contributed to this report

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Filed under: Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich • The Situation Room • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Tree


    People who Obama is giving "free stuff" from his "stash" are going to vote for him to keep getting the "free stuff".

    Silly you, tell me what free stuff is Obama giving ? If you have to think about it than you are wrong. To much of Fox News. Some are just saying things and don't have a reason why . Some people who is on food stamps and welfare is because they lost their jobs or they are the working poor. No one is looking for a hand off , but for the last 5 years things are bad but getting better. Again my friend what free stuff ?????????/

    August 9, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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