Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan is returning to Washington on Thursday to cast what will likely be his last vote before the November election. House Republicans are holding a vote to block the much-maligned welfare waivers that the Obama administration granted states that wanted to experiment with their welfare-to-work programs.
Ryan will likely support the legislation. “The waiver I don’t think meets the letter of the law. The law was not intended to allow states to waive the work requirements,” Ryan said last week. “If states waive work requirements, people will not go from welfare to work. They will stay on welfare. That’s not good for anybody.”
For starters, the waivers do not waive the work requirements. And as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted, in 2002 Ryan inserted a provision into a reauthorization of the welfare law that gave his home state “a significant break in meeting new federal work rules“:
Those measures — patterned after a Bush administration plan — require states to have 70% of their welfare recipients working by 2007. That’s compared with an average of about one-third now.
But under the change sought by Ryan, a Janesville Republican, the states with the biggest drop in their welfare caseloads since 1995 would have a lower threshold to meet.
Wisconsin had the third-biggest caseload drop between 1995 and 2001 — 76%. Under Ryan’s change, that would mean the state would need to have 54% of its welfare recipients working by 2007, instead of 70%. Sixteen other states would get relief under the change, but only two states would benefit more than Wisconsin.
As ThinkProgress reported, Ryan argued that this provision would “give the state more flexibility in meeting the tough new federal work requirements expected to be enacted this year — including more use of education and training to help move people into better-paying jobs.”
Now, of course, Ryan is singing a different tune, claiming that flexibility “is not the American idea. That’s a welfare state.” On Wednesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) attempted to move a measure blocking the administration’s waivers through the Senate by unanimous consent, but was blocked by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).