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Public Statements

Disapproving Rule Relating to Waiver and Expenditure Authority with Respect to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEVIN. I yield myself 3 minutes.

This bill has one purpose: to provide a fig leaf of credibility for a political attack ad that has no credibility whatsoever. 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 given four Pinocchios for dishonesty.

The Republican staffer, Ron Haskins, who helped draft the 1996 welfare law says the charge is baseless. I quote:

The idea that the administration is going to overturn welfare reform is ridiculous.

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 administration effort is about promoting ``more work, not less,'' as eloquently stated by President Clinton, who led efforts on welfare reform.

The administration heard from State officials that if they're allowed to focus more on outcomes and less on paperwork, they can put more people to work. So HHS said to the States, including Republican Governors who asked for this: 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 nonpartisan CRS. 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 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, pure politics, indeed, impure politics.

This is the same Republican Party that passed their own much broader versions 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.

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Mr. LEVIN. I yield myself 15 seconds.

I hope everybody heard that last statement. It shows someone coming down and essentially endorsing, in a broad way, the 47 percent statement, the horribly misguided statement of the Governor of Massachusetts--former Governor.

I now yield 1 1/2 minutes to the very distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Neal).

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Mr. LEVIN. I yield myself 30 seconds.

Those statements, indeed, are an insult, an insult. That isn't what the administration has in mind. I read a letter from the Governor of Utah to the Secretary of HHS. In discussion with HHS officials, Utah suggested that:

We be evaluated on the basis of the State's success in placing our customers in employment, while also using a full participation model. This approach would require some flexibility at the State level and the granting of a waiver.

That's what this is about. Don't massage the truth.

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Mr. LEVIN. I yield myself the balance of my time.

You know, I think the public should ask why this resolution, why trying to provide some kind of a smokescreen for an ad that has been called a ``pants on fire lie'' and ``four Pinocchio's dishonest,'' why do that? I think the reason is very clear. This is manipulating the truth to try, I think, to appeal to the worst instincts.

I worked with Ron Haskins on welfare reform, and he says this, I quote: ``There is no plausible scenario on which it''--he means this ad--``really constitutes a serious attack on welfare reform.''

He goes on to say, ``the idea''--I repeat this--``that the administration is going to try to overturn welfare reform is ridiculous.''

And then he says, ``Republicans are the ones who talk about giving the States more flexibility. Now, all of a sudden, the States shouldn't get the flexibility because they are going to mess it up? It doesn't make sense.''

But it's worse than nonsense. It's pernicious. The ad is pernicious, and it's beneath the dignity of this House for Republicans in the House who are doing nothing on major issues to do something to try to protect the former Governor of Massachusetts, their candidate for President.

This House deserves much better than becoming a political plaything, a political plaything. It won't happen. Despite this vote, it won't happen.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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