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Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, I reserve the right to object. Under my reservation, let me first thank my colleague from Utah for bringing this matter before us. But, like him, I was in the Congress in the late nineties when we passed the TANF law. I remember being part of welfare reform. Prior to that time, we had what is known as AFDC, aid for dependent children, which was an entitlement program that offered the States the opportunity to move forward without risk because they were guaranteed a certain amount of money for every child who was eligible--for every family who was eligible for welfare funds. We changed that to provide for temporary assistance for needy families, TANF.
I remember very clearly working with the States and working with my distinguished colleague, and what we told the States was this: You are going to get a block grant. That means you are going to be bottom-line responsible for the program, that there will no longer be a guarantee on the number of families who are enrolled in welfare as to dollars you are going to receive.
We promised two things: We told the States we were going to give them the tools they needed to get the job done. We provided the funds so they could provide for job training so that the people on welfare would have adequate skills in order to get jobs. We promised them childcare so that children could be taken care of while they were in the workforce.
We provided the tools, but we also said we would provide the States the flexibility to get the job done. We provided accountability, and accountability was the participation rate, which could be satisfied in different ways, which said the States have the flexibility to get the job done--a model of federalism--but we would let the States experiment to figure out the best way to accomplish the end result: getting people off of cash assistance, getting them into the workplace.
Now, let me point out to my colleagues that the waiver authority has been in the law for a long time, section 1115. We have had our disagreements with all administrations on the use of the waiver authority. My colleague refers to the GAO's report which dealt with five waivers that were requested from 2000 to 2009. Those State waivers sought relief from specific requirements. It did not bring forward an innovative new approach to try to use State experimentation to get the best results.
It is interesting that in 2008, under the Bush administration, Health and Human Services documented that the waiver authority indeed existed as it related to the participation rates and the way in which they could be satisfied.
Secretary Sebelius has made it clear that the waiver will only be used for a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent. So she is looking at using the waivers to increase participation rates, to increase the number of people who are actually employed. If there is not progress within a year, the State runs the risk of losing the waiver. It is focused on improving employment outcomes for participants.
I must say that I am extremely disappointed about the partisan nature of this discussion. I say that because I think we have all seen the ads that have been put on the networks by Governor Romney that accuse the Obama administration of eliminating the work requirement on TANF, on welfare, when the fact is that the use of this waiver authority has been to strengthen the work participation rates--to strengthen the work participation rates. These ads have been condemned by major news sources on both the left and right. They understand this. So you would think that once Governor Romney understood that his ad was misleading and wrong, he would take it off the air, but instead he has actually increased the usage of this ad, which I find to be outrageous. Maybe it is consistent with Governor Romney's recent disclosure of his concern for half of America, saying it is not his problem.
My job--our job--is to consider the needs of all of our constituents. TANF is a program that I think represents a model in federalism. It allows us to learn from the States so we can take their best models and use them for national policies. That is the reason for federalism. That was the reason we went to TANF reform. What the waiver authority is being used for is to give us that experimentation.
We have heard from more and more States that Congress mandates too much. I hear from my Republican colleagues all the time that we have too many mandates. Well, some States have a better way of doing it. Rather than spend their money dealing with the mandates, they said: Look, we will accomplish the bottom line. We will get more people working. We will get better results. We will get people better trained. We will not only get people employed, but they will have the skills to go up the employment ladder, to
really succeed and have good-paying jobs in their lifetime. Let's do what is right, and then you can learn from us, rather than having to listen to the specific mandates some of my colleagues would like to see in stone here from Washington.
This was a commitment we made to the States in the nineties. The waiver authority is in existing law. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Sebelius, is only using it for innovative approaches that increase the work responsibilities of the State, not diminish them. That has been well documented.
For all of those reasons, I do object.
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Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, I very much appreciate my friend Senator Hatch, and we are good friends, and I very much appreciate the point he makes. I do need to correct at least two points.
One, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh undergraduate, not law school. I am a graduate of the University of Maryland Law School, and I want to make sure my friends in Maryland know it was their law school.
Mr. HATCH. If the Senator will yield, I certainly retract my statement on that. But I feel bad the Senator didn't graduate from the University of Pittsburgh, as I did.
Mr. CARDIN. Well, I was afraid to apply. I wasn't sure I would get in.
The second point, on a more substantive matter on this debate, is that I wish to point out the requests that were made for waivers between 2000 and 2009 were from the final requirement. They didn't seek to bring forward a demonstration program or a different way to get to their results. The difference here is that States should have the flexibility to come in with innovative ways if they accomplish at least what we set out in law for them to accomplish. In fact, with these demonstration waivers, they will have to do better on the end result on people working. I just wanted to point that out because I thought there were differences from the prior requests that were made and Secretary Sebelius's response.
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