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Rep. Graves Asks Secretary Sebelius to Explain How HHS Can Legally Gut Welfare Requirements

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09) released the following statement after sending a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The letter, which was signed by 75 other members of Congress, raises questions about the Obama Administration's decision to allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive the work requirements in the 1996 welfare reform law. The letter asks Secretary Sebelius to advise the Congress of which officials within the Obama Administration were involved in the decision to waive the work requirements, and it asks what legal authority HHS has identified to allow the department to arbitrarily ignore this section of the law. The welfare reform law mandates that able-bodied adults should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving welfare aid. The bi-partisan law has been successful, substantially decreasing overall poverty and child poverty in America.

"Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration must answer to the American people on where her Department gets the legal authority to circumvent the law of the land. A Democratic President and bipartisan support in Congress made this law a reality. These work requirements were created to help empower people to leave the welfare system and be successful on their own. And, it's worked. The Obama Administration does not have the legal authority to ignore the legislative process just to further its goal of expanding the welfare state."


The work requirements in the 1996 welfare reform law are part of a program called "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families" (TANF). The Obama Administration issued a new directive stating that TANF work requirements could be avoided through a legal device called a "section 1115 waiver authority" under the Social Security law. Section 1115 lets the Department of Health and Human Services waive only parts of the law listed in section 1115 itself. However, the TANF work provisions are not listed in section 1115, and are not able to be waived under the section 1115 waiver authority.

According to the Heritage Foundation, 2.9 million fewer children lived in poverty in America in 2003, after the welfare reform law was implemented, compared to 1995. Welfare caseloads had also been cut in half.

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