Floor Statement Opposing Republican Welfare Waiver Resolution

Sep 20, 2012

Mr. Chairman,

This bill has one purpose – to provide a fig leaf of credibility for a political attack ad that has no credibility. Every independent fact checker has said the attack ad on the President is false. Governor Romney’s claim that President Obama is eliminating work requirements for welfare recipients has been called a “pants on fire” lie and “four pinocchios” dishonest. Even the Republican staffer who drafted the 1996 welfare law says the charge is baseless.

Here are the facts.  Any demonstration project allowed under the guidance announced by HHS would have to be designed to increase the employment of TANF recipients, would be subject to rigorous evaluation, and would be terminated if it failed to meet employment goals. The whole effort is about promoting more work, not less, as eloquently stated by President Clinton, who led efforts on welfare. The Administration has heard from state officials that if they are allowed to focus more on outcomes and less on paperwork, they can put more people to work.  So HHS said to the states – prove it.  

We may hear the majority state that HHS does not have the authority to provide waivers.  But that’s not the conclusion reached by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.  In fact, CRS said the current HHS waiver initiative is “consistent” with prior practice. And now we’ve heard Republicans say that TANF waivers have never been provided before now, even when requested.  But here’s what the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) said about past requests, “states were not asking for waivers to test new approaches through experimental, pilot or demonstration projects, which would be necessary in order to get a waiver under Section 1115.”  In other words, in the past, states weren’t asking for the waivers that HHS is allowed to provide under the law and is now offering.

At the end of the day, this debate isn’t about process or even policy.  It’s about politics. This is the same Republican Party that passed their own, much broader version of welfare waivers in 2002, 2003 and 2005.  Let me read to you what the Congressional Research Service said about those bills – “The legislation would have had the effect of allowing TANF work participation standards to be waived.”    

Guess who voted three times for this waiver of the work participation requirement in TANF.   Not only the Chairman of Ways and Means. Also, the Chairman of the Budget Committee and Governor Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan. We should be issues today that matter, starting with a credible jobs plan. Instead House Republicans, who are doing nothing on these issues, are doing something totally political. It’s a disservice to this great institution.