Opening Statement at Markup of TANF Waiver Bill
Opening Statement of Ranking Member Sander Levin
Markup of TANF Waiver Bill
At a time when this Committee should be emphasizing a search for opportunities to see if we can find common ground, we have before us a bill that only increases polarization. Today, a regrettable pattern of opposing initiatives put forth by President Obama continues at time when our nation desperately needs more governing and less political positioning.
Many in the majority voted on three separate occasions in the past to provide much broader welfare waiver authority than the recent initiative put forward by HHS. The Congressional Research Service has confirmed that all three of those Republican bills – “would have had the effect of allowing TANF work participation standards to be waived.”
Republican Governor Gary Herbert of Utah has openly expressed an interest in pursuing a waiver in the TANF program to increase the employment of welfare recipients. In December he said, “campaigns are campaigns, and now it is time to govern.”
Instead, we are debating a bill reflecting charges from the Romney presidential campaign that independent fact-finders have confirmed as false.
In labeling the distortion made by Gov. Romney and other campaigns during the election a “pants on fire” lie, the Pulitzer-prize winning fact checker, PolitiFact, stated unequivocally: “By granting waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them. What’s more, the waivers would apply to individually evaluated pilot programs -- HHS is not proposing a blanket, national change to the welfare law.”
Using the same authority that the Clinton Administration used to grant dozens of welfare waivers in the mid-1990's, the Secretary of HHS has said she would consider requests from states to run demonstration projects, but only if the projects increased employment by at least 20 percent.
This is an effort to make welfare reform work more – not less – effectively, an effort that I have supported and will continue to support.
Governors have said that they could put more people to work if they were able to focus more on outcomes and less on bureaucratic requirements. In allowing waivers to pursue demonstration projects, HHS responded to these Governors by saying – prove it.
It would be much better use of our time for this Committee to discuss how we address the sequester. Key issues relating to the sequester fall within this Committee’s jurisdiction. Instead we are spending time and energy on legislation that is based on hyped-up campaign rhetoric. We can do better than that.