Welfare debate gets back to work
August 8th, 2012
09:26 AM ET
10 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. Facts

    Unfortunately for conservatives, facts have a liberal bias.

    August 8, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. carrborian

    come on cnn! this attack is an outright lie and you need to say so, rather than simply reporting the one source says one thing and another source says another thing. you are enabling poorly-informed voters to stay that way. the headline of the article should be "romney continues false claims on welfare."

    August 8, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    it's easy to fool the uneducated...nice scam the democrats have

    August 8, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  4. Name

    I think they should get rid off welfare program completely cause this program makes people lazy yeah lazy. As a tax payer I am tired of supporting all those people who gets free money inform of welfare checks or I would call as "government gift card".

    August 8, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  5. Four and The Door

    Everyone is missing the point with Romney – If anyone thinks that the Mormon church is not presently influencing Romney and his campaign they are just as deluded as the mormons are. They ultimately will weigh in on any decision he makes.
    What's your point? I am not a Mormon but the fact that Mitt Romney is has very little to do with his capabilities to do well as President. You and so many other people I believe seriously underestimate how difficult it is to be a great President. Especially right now with our nation threatened by runaway debt, the economy not growing and unemployment stuck long term over 8%. We had better put someone in charge who can manage a strategy out of this mess and put America on a course forward that gives a good life for the next generations. Mitt Romney has an excellent plan and a proven record of success in both public and private sectors. He is the guy to do it. He is not a political hack just looking out for his own party and an ideological agenda. He is in it to make it work. For everyone. That's what we need.

    August 8, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. Onegood1

    Obama is willing to tell all in an autobiographical book, such intimate things as how much dope he smoked and coke he snorted for years. But he will not release anything about his college academic records. If no one would care about his coke habit, why would they care if he was a lousy student going to great colleges?
    Obviously there is something so important in these academic records that it is more damaging than admitting to being a coke-head. It must be that he used a “foreign student” application status in order to get preferential treatment for acceptance at Harvard and Columbia.
    I was never a “birther,” and I cannot tell if there is a forged birth certificate. But if he was born in Hawaii, then he lied about his status on admission applications to Harvard and Columbia. If he was not born in Hawaii, then he lied about his eligibility to become President. Well, which is it?

    August 8, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  7. Wilson

    ""Unfortunately for conservatives, facts have a liberal bias."""
    Hmmmm. Not that I've observed.

    August 8, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    I think to Republican Party didn't check Romney out enough. Romney. From his money, health care, welfare. jobs and to top it off he is a Mexican/American father was born is Mexico.

    August 8, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. Exec

    What happened?

    August 8, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. Name

    I think president Obama makeing our country and it's people lazy by sending free tax payer money to people whose on government assistance program called welfare

    August 8, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. B.R Th

    Read this book
    AFTERSHOCK The Next Economy & America's Future::Robert Reich.
    Mitt is a disaster waiting to happen and for those who are willing to buy into his false promises will be responsible for the start of a new dictatorship.

    August 8, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. Liberalmedia

    Us conservative don't like facts. Now excuse me I have to get back to doing my cousin

    August 8, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Alfred Hussei Neuman

    Wow, sounds like a couple of liberals doing everything they can to make Romney wrong and cheer lead for Obama.

    August 8, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  14. Alfred Hussei Neuman

    If you could unseal Obama’s Columbia University records I believe you’d find that:

    A) He rarely ever attended class.

    B) His grades were not those typical of what we understand it takes to get into Harvard Law School.

    C) He attended Columbia as a foreign exchange student.

    D) He paid little for either undergraduate college or Harvard Law School because of foreign aid and scholarships given to a poor foreign students like this kid Barry Soetoro from Indonesia.

    August 8, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  15. Are you kidding me?

    Williar does not know anything about welfare nor did he reach out to people to understand what they are going through. If he was serious about welfare he would donate that $100 million he just got to charity or tell his contributors to focus that money on job creation and the economy instead of trying to get favors.

    August 8, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. DJ Reality

    What disappoints me is the fact that although both campaigns play loose with the truth it is Romney who cries foul the most. I mean boy he can dish it out but, he can't take it. All he does is attack and whines when he doesn't like what the other side says. He needs to be tougher if he wants to be president and I don't think he's cut out to be president.

    August 8, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. Crackpipe

    Wow – this really has the moocher class liberals up in arms!

    August 8, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. keeth

    I used to think he was just a blatant serial liar, but I think he's really a pathological liar. There's something seriously wrong upstairs.

    August 8, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. James Klimaski

    Unfortunately for the American voter, truth is being jettisoned by the Romney campaign in their win at any cost campaign for the Presidency. I think it is imperative we see those tax returns of his, if they exist. Would like to have seen the records of his time as Governor of Massachusetts and as Chair of the Winter Olympics Committee. But alas, those were destroyed at Romney's direction. Is he even capable of telling the truth?

    August 8, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    Looks like Mr. Romney and handlers are trying very hard to lose this election. Romey tax scandal is not going away. Can't they see that?

    August 8, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. Wake up people

    President Obama has no reason to release anything else. Get over it, he is a very intelligent man and some can't handle that. Too bad for you. President Obama released 10 years of his taxes while the empty suited flip flopper that wasn't even good enough to be Mccain's VP has released 1. Willard has cheated the very same government he wants to run.

    Show the taxes Willard and put this all to bed.....what are you afraid of??
    Son of Boss maybe?? I knew you were a liar Willard, all one has to do is look in your empty, lying eyes.

    OBAMA 2012!

    August 8, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  22. Four and The Door

    Maria Rivera-Carvalho
    Looks like Mr. Romney and handlers are trying very hard to lose this election. Romey tax scandal is not going away.
    The only people worried about Mitt Romney's taxes are Obama/ Biden 2012. But here's the bad news. It's a non-issue. They will need to run on the real issues affecting American voters in 2012. The Economy, Jobs, National Debt and a plan forward. Their record on all of the above puts them at a severe disadvantage. It is what it is. Obama bet the farm in 2009 and 2010 and didn't realize that someday he would be held accountable for results. The message from voters in November will be Accountability. We will do better going forward. Romney 2012.

    August 8, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  23. RMorisette

    I agree completely with ..............


    come on cnn! this attack is an outright lie and you need to say so, rather than simply reporting the one source says one thing and another source says another thing. you are enabling poorly-informed voters to stay that way. the headline of the article should be "romney continues false claims on welfare.

    August 8, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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