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Public Statements

Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and TANF Extension Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. LEE of California. Mr. Speaker, let me thank the gentleman for yielding and for his tremendous leadership.

I rise in opposition to this TANF reauthorization bill that would deny States the opportunity to help put more unemployed people to work.

With 26 million working-age adults in America living below the poverty line, and millions struggling to stay afloat, I'm appalled that the House Republican priority is to bring to the floor a bill that further restricts the TANF program's ability to improve job outcomes and get people to work.

Funding for the TANF program has not kept pace with need. As a result, four out of five children living in poverty today are not being reached. Instead of targeting the President's reforms, which would actually increase flexibility for States, mind you, Congress should be focused on creating jobs and ladders of opportunity.

Now, I was on the conference committee that Congressman Thompson mentioned. I was in the California legislature, and I was on the conference committee that negotiated California's TANF program. And let me tell you, I voted against it. I voted against my own conference committee's report because, as a former welfare recipient myself, I didn't want to see more welfare recipients being penalized by a work requirement with no real effort and initiative and resources to help primarily women move from welfare to work.

This administration's reforms would correct for this, finally. It would create that flexibility that was needed then.

That's why yesterday myself, Congressmen Raúl Grijalva, Judy Chu, and Emanuel Cleaver, we submitted an amendment to restore the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund to further support our Nation's jobless workers and put people back to work.

It's not surprising that our amendment was ruled not in order by the Republican-controlled Rules Committee, but it does underscore the reality that Republicans are far more interested in scoring political points than they are in putting people back to work.

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Ms. LEE of California. American families need a national strategy to end poverty, and this should be part of that. As chair of the Democratic whip's Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, I'm working with all of our colleagues to advance that goal. Unfortunately, this reauthorization, though, takes us in the exact opposite direction.

We need to extend the TANF program, but this is not the way to do it. We need flexibility.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this bill.

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