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A Successful Policy Like the 1996 Welfare Reform Merits Defending

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) today praised the passage of House Joint Resolution 118 from the Education and Workforce Committee. H.J. Res. 118 will preserve federal work requirements for welfare programs from being dismantled by President Obama's Health and Human Services Department.

"Members of the House Education & Workforce Committee did what we had to do today to protect successful welfare reforms from being gutted by the Obama Administration," Congresswoman Foxx stated. "The bipartisan welfare reforms of the mid-nineties were centered around work requirements for capable individuals. That particular commonsense reform helped pave a way for many Americans and their families to escape cyclical poverty, and got many of them off the welfare rolls altogether. A successful policy like that merits defending."

"Why the President and his HHS Secretary decided to attempt to undermine the success of welfare reform is beyond me. Only Congress can change public law, not the Executive. The majority of members stand with the 83 percent of Americans who want to see welfare work requirements upheld."

The success of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act is well documented:

The number of individuals on the welfare rolls dropped by 57 percent;
Poverty among all single mothers fell by 30 percent;
Poverty among black children dropped to its lowest level in 2001; and
Employment and earnings among single mothers increased significantly.
H.J. Res. 118 will:

Convey the disapproval of Congress for the Obama Administration's attempt to bypass the legislature and weaken welfare reform;
Prevent the Administration from implementing its unilateral plan to waive the work requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law; and
Preserve critical reforms that have helped lift millions of American families out of poverty.

On July 12, 2012 the Obama Administration's Department of Health and Human Services issued an information memorandum announcing it would be unilaterally waiving the work requirements central to the 1996 Welfare reforms enacted by a Republican Congress with the support of President Bill Clinton.

The 1996 Welfare Reform Act includes a clause that specially prohibits the Executive Branch from changing the work requirements established within the law.

The Government Accountability Office's General Counsel, Lynn H. Gibson, weighed in on the Executive's unilateral action on September 4, noting that the memorandum issued by HHS on July 12 "is a statement of general applicability and future effect, designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy with regard to TANF… Accordingly, the Information Memorandum is a rule under the Congressional Review Act." As a rule, he continued, the HHS policy directive "must be submitted to Congress and the comptroller general before taking effect."

H.J. Res. 118 will advance to the full House of Representatives for consideration next week. An identical version of the resolution is moving through the Senate.

In addition to her support of H.J. Res. 118, Foxx is a cosponsor of H.R. 6140, the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act. Like H.J. Res. 118, this legislation would specifically prohibit the President's Health and Human Services Secretary from acting outside the limits of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act by waiving work requirements.

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