Obama Guts Bill Clinton’s Signature Welfare Reform

Maybe he’s a little pissed about Ed Klein’s “Amateur.” Rob Port at Say Anthing pretty well sums it up.

One of the real policy successes of the 1990′s, something both Republicans and former President Bill Clinton (though he first vetoed reforms twice) take credit for, is welfare reform that put an emphasis on urging a return to work and self-sufficiency. Specifically, the reforms tied welfare support to certain return to work requirements that, in turn, were protected by Congress from being waived by federal bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services.

But now, with an executive order, President Obama has dismissed that restriction on waivers opening the door for welfare recipients getting benefits without an expectation that they return to work:

Welfare reform replaced the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children with a new program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The Heritage Foundation played a pivotal role in building bipartisan consensus for the reform and providing many of the recommendations that became part of the law. The whole point was that able-bodied adults should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving welfare aid.

This reform was very successful. TANF became the only welfare program (out of more than 70) that promoted greater self-reliance. It moved 2.8 million families off the welfare rolls and into jobs so that they were providing for themselves. Child poverty fell, and single-parent employment rose. Recipients were required to perform at least 20–30 hours per week of work or job preparation activities in exchange for the cash benefit.

Now, Obama’s HHS is claiming that it can waive those work requirements that are at the heart of the law, and without Congress’s consent.

When it established TANF, Congress deliberately exempted or shielded nearly all of the TANF program from waiver authority. They explicitly did not want the law to be rewritten at the whim of HHS bureaucrats. In a December 2001, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service clarified that there was no authority to override work and other major requirements: “Effectively, there are no TANF waivers,” it reported.

But that did not stop the Obama Administration, which has been increasing welfare spending at an alarming rate already.

In effect, President Obama has re-written the law without bothering to get the approval of Congress. Not only is that an abuse of executive power, it results in more social policy that promotes government dependence instead of self-sufficiency.

The only upside is that they’re doing this before the election, so everyone knows where Obama really stands on this. The American public are big believers in the concept of Workfare, so this is a real opportunity for the Romney campaign. Let’s hope they handle it better than they’re handling the Bain and tax stuff.

Mickey Kaus has a more detailed analysis at The Daily Caller, including the Romney response.

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