“Neither the Obama Administration nor any Administration should have the power to unilaterally change the law as it sees fit. Work requirements were an essential part of the landmark 1996 Welfare Reform law and shouldn’t be scrapped at the whim of Washington bureaucrats. This legislation restores critical welfare work requirements so Congress can thoroughly and thoughtfully examine the TANF program in a way that balances states concerns, while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used to get people off welfare and on a path to self-sufficiency.”
Other Republicans in the Senate have signed onto the bill, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said that, “President Obama just tore up a basic foundation of thew welfare contract.”
To say the least, this is a questionable description of the new policy. The language of Obama’s memo rules out using welfare funds to help “individuals or families subject to the [Temporary Assistanace for Needy Families] prohibitions on assistance.” Rather, it’s specifically geared towards reducing red tape and seeing to it that people are counted as successes when they find work, not simply when they take on various activities such as job hunting, training, or unpaid work. In essence, the waivers increase states’ focus on actually getting people into jobs.
Support for such flexibility is not new, and it crosses both state and partisan lines. The governor of Utah — Sen. Hatch’s own state — called for such waivers in 2011. So did California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Nevada, the last of which was also under Republican control at the time. In 2005, Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presidential candidate, joined 29 other Republican governors in calling for more flexibility and “increased waiver authority” in welfare policy from the then Republican Congress.