U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, today filed two amendments to the stop-gap government funding bill, H.R. 933. The first amendment blocks federal funds from being used to grant work requirement waivers to those on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.
"Instead of bypassing Congress, the Obama Administration should work in a collaborative manner to thoroughly reexamine the 17 year-old TANF program. Unilaterally granting work waivers to states, as this White House has done, undermines the work-first approach that served as the foundation to the landmark 1996 bipartisan welfare reform law , while doing nothing to address the other challenges facing this program," said Hatch. "By prohibiting the use of federal dollars to waive welfare work requirements, my amendment stops this latest power grab from the White House and opens the door for real welfare reform. Since the Administration won't work with Congress to overhaul the welfare program, then Senate Democrats need to step up, and commit to working with Republicans to develop a comprehensive reauthorization bill that moves through the Senate Finance Committee in regular order."
The second amendment - a Motion to Commit -- sends the legislation back to the Finance Committee to strike the bill's short-term TANF reauthorization and replace it with a five year reauthorization of the program. By strengthening the work requirement in TANF to accelerate job placement rates for recipients of TANF as well as improve state flexibility and increase accountability, the Motion to Commit also vitiates the need for the Obama Administration to waive current TANF work requirements.
"TANF expired nearly three years ago. Instead of kicking the can down the road with short-term extensions, let's work together on a bipartisan basis and let the Senate Finance Committee do its job and reauthorize and improve this program," Hatch said.
Last July, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unilaterally granted itself the authority to exempt states from the work requirements that were a critical element of welfare reform and that could allow states to permit things like bed rest, smoking cessation and exercise to count as a work activity to receive these government benefits.
The non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the agency's decision qualified as a rule that must be submitted to Congress and that is subject to review -- and potential disapproval -- under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
In December, Hatch called on the President to withdraw the Administration's proposal to waive welfare work requirements and to work in a bipartisan fashion with Congress to conduct a robust reform and reexamination of the 17-year-old Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, also known as welfare. To date, the Administration has failed to respond.