Today, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee announced that they have introduced joint resolutions to block the Obama Administration's attempt to waive bipartisan welfare work requirements.
The resolutions were introduced after the Government Accountability Office (GAO), at the request of Hatch and Camp, released an analysis that found the Administration's recent decision to unilaterally grant itself the authority to waive federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work requirements -- a central element of bipartisan welfare reform enacted in 1996 -- qualify as a rule that must be submitted to Congress and that is subject to review, and potential disapproval, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
"With the stroke of a pen, the Obama Administration single-handedly undermined one of the central tenets of bipartisan welfare reform, that work is the best path to self-sufficiency," said Hatch. "Given GAO's findings, it's an indisputable fact that this Administration should have submitted its unilateral changes to Congress. The way forward is to put a stop to this unprecedented power play, as this resolution does, and start over on a robust reform and reexamination of this program."
"It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the Obama Administration has refused to withdraw their illegal 'guidance' undermining the critical welfare work requirements," said Camp. "This resolution will restore these requirements that have led to more work, higher earnings, less welfare dependence and fewer impoverished Americans. As the economy continues to struggle under the President's policies, we must not make things worse by undoing a program that has been essential in moving individuals from welfare to work."
The Hatch and Camp resolutions express disapproval of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule to allow State waivers of the federal requirement that welfare recipients engage in work or work related activities. If approved by Congress, the resolutions would halt the Administration's effort.
Following is procedural background on the Congressional Review Act (CRA):
What is the CRA?
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) was first enacted in 1996 as part of the Contract with America Advancement Act (P.L. 104-121).
The law requires that any agency promulgating a rule or a regulation must submit a report to the Congress and Comptroller General that contains a copy of the rule, a statement describing the rule and the proposed effective date. A rule cannot be implemented if this report is not submitted.
More importantly, the CRA gives Congress an expedited process under which new federal rules and regulations issued by an agency can be overruled via a joint resolution.
How does the CRA Work?
Within 60 days after the GAO determines an Administration action is a rule, and it is received by the Senate, any Senator can file a Resolution of Disapproval of the rule.
If the committee to which the joint resolution is referred to has not reported it in 20 days, then any Senator may get a discharge petition signed by 30 senators to proceed to the resolution. A vote to proceed to the resolution cannot be filibustered or amended.
If the motion to proceed is agreed to, it is followed by 10 hours of debate on the Resolution, followed by a vote on final passage.