Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide a legal analysis detailing how the agency determined it had the unilateral authority to waive welfare work requirements.
The letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius comes on the heels of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found the Informational Memorandum (IM) issued by the Department on July 12 was an actual rule that is subject to congressional review and approval or disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The GAO also concluded that until this year, no Administration, including the Obama Administration, has stated it has the authority to waive welfare work requirements.
"The work requirement is explicitly defined in the bipartisan 1996 welfare law agreed to by Congress and President Clinton," said Camp. "After 16 years of it successfully reducing dependence on a welfare check, the Obama Administration wants to unilaterally change the work requirement -- something it does not have the authority to do. They need to justify their actions to Congress and the American people who strongly believe welfare recipients should be required to work in order to receive benefits."
"With the stroke of a pen, the Obama Administration unilaterally decided to circumvent Congress and undermine the work-first approach that served as the anchor to the 1996 bipartisan welfare reform law," said Hatch. "We need to understand how this was determined, who made this decision and why. Presidents Clinton and Bush, and even the Obama Administration themselves, denied having this waiver authority until this past July. What was it, exactly, that changed?"
In addition to a legal analysis, Hatch and Camp requested all copies of correspondence between the Department's Office of General Counsel (OGC), Counselor for Human Services Policy, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Administration for Children and Families involving the IM by October 25.