In move that went largely “unnoticed” by the mainstream media, the Obama administration on Thursday released an “official policy directive” that essentially rewrites the landmark welfare reform law of 1996, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York reports.
“The directive,” York explains, “allows the Department of Health and Human Services to waive the work requirement at the heart of welfare reform.”
An “Information Memorandum” released by the Department of Health and Human Services’ states:
[The] HHS has authority to waive compliance with this 402 requirement and authorize a state to test approaches and methods other than those set forth in section 407, including definitions of work activities and engagement, specified limitations, verification procedures, and the calculation of participation rates.
The memo, as the Daily Caller’s Caroline May notes, argues that by waiving the so-called “work requirements,” the feds are encouraging “states to consider new, more effective ways to meet the goals of TANF, particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.”
Of course, the decision is seen by many on the right as a weakening, maybe even a violation, of the 1996 reform law.
The law, “originally vetoed but later signed into law by President Bill Clinton, is widely viewed as the most successful policy initiative in a generation. Under it, the growth in welfare rolls was reversed and millions of people moved from welfare to work,” York writes.
Bill Clinton signing legislation in 1996 overhauling the welfare system (photo source: NYT)
“Despite its success, however, many liberals remain opposed to reform. For example, in the years immediately after passage of the law, Barack Obama himself pledged to do all he could to undo it,” he adds.
Well, it looks like he’s done it.
The Obama administration’s decision is “the end of welfare reform as we know it,” said Robert Rector, a welfare policy expert at the Heritage Foundation.
“President Obama just tore up a basic foundation of the welfare contract,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan.
“Today’s action is also a blatant violation of the law. After immigration, education, marriage, and religious conscience protections, we can now add welfare reform to the list of laws President Obama refuses to follow,” he adds.
House Speaker John Boehner released a statement criticizing the president.
“By gutting the work requirements in President Clinton’s signature welfare reform law, President Obama is admitting his economic policies have failed,” Boehner wrote.
While President Clinton worked with Congress in a bipartisan way on welfare reform and economic opportunity, President Obama has routinely ignored Republican proposals, rejected House-passed jobs bills, and imposed an agenda that’s helped keep the unemployment rate above eight percent for 41 months.
Welfare reform was an historic, bipartisan success — this move by the Obama administration is a partisan disgrace.
Meanwhile, as the president’s campaign continues to chase after thoroughly debunked Bain Capital narratives, Mitt Romney has already come out and hit the White House for its welfare rewrite.
“President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare,” Romney said.
“The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work. The president’s action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life,” he added.