Our nation has a choice -- a future where those in need have the opportunity to succeed or a future dependent upon welfare. I believe in helping people get back on their feet and creating a sense of personal responsibility for those seeking assistance -- that is the purpose of the work requirements found within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program created by the groundbreaking bipartisan welfare reform of the 90s.
In 1996, Congress and the Clinton Administration succeeded in overhauling the nation's failed welfare system, imposing real work requirements to help break the welfare cycle of dependency. Under the law, all able-bodied participants must work or look for work in order to receive benefits. This program has been tremendously successful in helping families achieve self-sufficiency and efficiently moving welfare recipients into the workplace.
However, it would seem that the Obama Administration is now prepared to unravel this progress. Just a few weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) quietly issued "guidance" to states regarding the TANF program that could effectively gut the critical work requirements at the center of welfare reform. The HHS guidance expresses the Secretary's willingness to allow states to seek "waivers" of work requirements for welfare recipients for the first time since the TANF program was created. The Obama Administration's step toward exempting states from work requirements is of great concern and is not the law's intent. This is just another example of this Administration's overreach and unending attempts to act contrary to the intent of the laws passed by Congress.
It is important that these requirements be preserved. A vast majority of the American people agree. According to a recent poll, 83 percent of Americans support a work requirement for welfare. If President Obama does not abandon this effort and listen to the American people, Congress is ready to act legislatively. I have signed on as a cosponsor of the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2012 (H.R. 6140), which would restore these critical requirements and prohibit the Obama Administration or future Administrations from unilaterally granting itself the authority to exempt states.
It is clear to me that the Obama Administration is more concerned about politics than the success of this bipartisan reform. As President Ronald Reagan said, "We should measure welfare's success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added." Instead of making more Americans dependent on the federal government and moving the welfare system backward, the Obama Administration should focus on job creation and spurring economic growth. I am a strong supporter of federal work requirements and will continue to fight to protect this common sense policy at the core of America's welfare reform.