Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and TANF Extension Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:  John Dingell
Date: March 14, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DINGELL. Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed to say that I must rise today in opposition to this legislation. Yet again, the House is taking programs that should enjoy bipartisan support--such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families--and adding such partisan provisions that make it wholly impossible to support.

In July 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memo outlining a program for states to consider that would allow for demonstration projects to test alternative job placement performance measures for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. This was in direct response to the requests from at least 29 states who wanted more flexibility on how they measured work participation. Many of these states requested a waiver so they could focus on more outcome-based measures, rather than job placement rates. The memo released by HHS outlines specific conditions that must be met by a state to receive a waiver: a clear and detailed explanation of how the alternative proposal would increase employment by 20 percent, as well as show that there are clear, measurable goals for work placement.

Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues would have you believe that the Administration is gutting the work requirements under TANF. This could not be further from the truth. In fact it should be obvious to any honest man who is not blind that this proposal does not waive the work requirements. Rather, this is the Administration being responsive to the needs of the states and providing them with more flexibility to test which strategies they think will work best for their residents. This type of state flexibility is routinely called for by Republican colleagues in federal programs, and now that this Administration has embraced the concept, my colleagues want to claim that welfare recipients will be able to stay on welfare and not work. In my experience, when the Administration has heard your complaints and takes the steps necessary to address these complaints you claim victory.

TANF is a necessary and important program that will give families who are struggling a hand-up, not a hand-out. I wish I could vote to reauthorize it today. But I cannot support a baseless partisan measure targeting flexibility for the states to improve this program. As President Clinton said, ``The requirement was for more work, not less.''

I urge my colleagues to reject this nakedly political legislation. Let's do the business of the American people in an honest, thoughtful, and proper way. I would remind my Republican colleagues that you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. The facts are that the Administration's proposal would increase work requirements and increase the ability of Americans to get back to work.