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Public Statements

Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I am personally very grateful for the wonderful remarks of my colleague, the chairman of the Finance Committee, because I do not think any words could express how much Russ means to all of us. He is a wonderful man. He is a wonderful leader on the committee. He is honest. He is straightforward. He works with you. Frankly, we all think the world of him on our side as well. I just wish to compliment the distinguished chairman for his beautiful remarks about a tremendous person and the foster children he has worked with.

Russ is the epitome of greatness on the Senate Finance Committee and as a staff member of the Senate. So I wish to personally pay tribute to him and express my sorrow over the loss of his son AJ and express my love and affection for him. He is a good man, helping a good chairman. We work together very closely, and I have a lot of regard for what the chairman just said and a lot of regard for Russ and wish him the best.


Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, on July 12, 2012, the Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services issued an Information Memorandum informing States that for the first time in the 16-year history of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, HHS would permit them to waive welfare work requirements.

This action undermines a robust work-first approach that was one of the key features of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

If allowed to stand, this action could result in activities such as journaling, bed rest, and smoking cessation classes being counted as work for the purposes of meeting Federal welfare work performance standards.

This change in policy presents a serious substantive question. Should taxpayer dollars go to welfare recipients who are not working but are instead journaling or working to quit smoking?

But it presents serious institutional questions as well because the action by the Obama administration was, quite simply, a unilateral power grab that usurps the constitutional power of the legislative branch, and every Member of this body ought to be concerned about it. That is no small thing.

Our Constitution, for good reason, locates the lawmaking power in the Congress. That is because our Founding Fathers understood that in a republic of laws, the lawmakers must represent the people directly. The people must have a close hold on the representatives who create the laws under which we live.

If changes are going to be made to the welfare work requirements, it should be up to the Congress to make them. Faceless bureaucrats at HHS should not be the ones making changes to the welfare work requirements. Yet that is exactly what happened here.

Unelected bureaucrats at HHS are attempting to change the law--a law passed by the Senate and the whole Congress. If left unchecked, welfare policy is being substantially changed by the Obama administration in a way that never would have been acceptable to the people's elected representatives in Congress.

No administration should be permitted to disregard the laws Congress passed and simply make up their own rules.

For 16 years, no President, Health and Human Services Secretary or Governor--regardless of political party--believed welfare work requirements could be waived.

If the Obama administration believes welfare work requirements should be changed, they should submit a legislative proposal to Congress.

In the 3 1/2 years before the July 12 information memorandum, the Obama administration never offered a legislative proposal to change the welfare work requirements.

The unprecedented nature of the Obama administration's power grab is supported by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

On September 4, 2012, the GAO responded to an inquiry from Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp and me.

They determined that the July 12 information memorandum was a rule that should have been submitted to Congress. GAO further found that as a rule, the information memorandum was subject to the Congressional Review Act. The Congressional Review Act provides Congress with an opportunity to review and, where appropriate, disapprove rules issued by the executive branch.

When more and more of the rules that govern the American people are being made by anonymous and unelected bureaucrats with no responsibility to reflect the priorities of the American people, the Congressional Review Act is a critical device and one we should always uphold. It allows the people's representatives in Congress to stand up and reject a rule emanating from the Federal bureaucracy.

The Committee on Ways and Means favorably reported the resolution of disapproval last week. The full House of Representatives will consider the resolution of disapproval this week. I have introduced S.J. Res. 50, a resolution of disapproval here in the Senate. I am pleased that my legislation is cosponsored by 21 of my colleagues.

The Congressional Review Act also provides for fast-track consideration of a resolution of disapproval when a Senator has secured at least 30 Senators on a discharge petition. That means no filibuster. I am pleased to report that I have well over 30 signatures on the discharge petition. Unfortunately, this expedited process does not kick in until later this month.

The Senate will be voting on my resolution, there is no question about that. The only question is when. In my view, we should take up this matter now. It is a critical issue for the American people, and it is a critical issue for this institution. As the people's representatives, it is a dereliction of duty to stand by while unelected officials attempt to change the law unilaterally without the constitutionally-prescribed input of the people's representatives in Congress. For that reason, in a few moments I will propound a unanimous consent request for debate, followed by a vote on proceeding to the resolution of disapproval. It is a simple request. A vote on the resolution of disapproval is inevitable. The only question is whether the majority will allow a vote in a timely manner.

Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that the Committee on Finance be discharged from further consideration of S.J. Res. 50, a joint resolution disapproving a rule submitted by HHS regarding welfare waivers; that there be 2 hours of debate on the motion to proceed equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees; and that the Senate then proceed to a vote on the adoption of the motion to proceed.


Mr. HATCH. Madam President, I appreciate my colleague's remarks, much of which I agree with. That still does not negate the fact that the administration has acted unilaterally as the executive branch to usurp powers of the legislative branch. That is the issue. It is a very important issue. It is the responsibility of the Congress, not the President, to give the States flexibility with regard to the work requirement. The Constitution is pretty explicit on that.

GAO reported today that even though States had requested or inquired about waivers, no administration--not the Clinton administration, not the Bush administration, not the Obama administration--believed they had waiver authority; that is, until July 12 when HHS did this. I think they knew they were wrong.

The latest GAO report details how whenever States requested TANF waivers in the past, HHS responded that no such authority exists. Between 2000 and 2009, during the Clinton, Bush, and even Obama administrations, HHS has consistently told States they have no waiver authority. Specifically, GAO finds that at least five States asked HHS about TANF waivers during that period. In two of those cases, GAO said the HHS official response said they ``did not have authority to provide waivers.'' In the three other cases when States asked informally, GAO reports that HHS responded saying that ``the requested waiver authority was not available.''

Separately, in 2005 and 2007 HHS published two ``program instructions'' about flexibilities in TANF, both indicating that no waiver authority existed. In these instructions, HHS stated, ``We have no authority under current law to waive any of the TANF requirements'' and ``We have no authority to waive any of the provisions of the Act.'' Only the Obama administration has claimed the ``authority,'' circumventing Congress.

Look, this is not just a political issue, as the distinguished Senator from Maryland, one of my dear friends here, said. We both graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. I have great admiration for him and great feelings toward him. But only the Obama administration has claimed this ``authority'' circumventing Congress. The latest GAO report highlights that only the Obama administration has claimed the authority to waive welfare work requirements. Further, GAO notes that this action by current HHS officials is in response to the President's February 2011 memorandum, which, according to subsequent administration guidance, solicited ``input on significant statutory barriers that could be addressed through waivers.''

Especially when viewed in the context of the President's ``we can't wait'' agenda, it is clear that this HHS proposal is part of an organized administration effort to circumvent Congress and its legislative authority. We have seen that time after time with an abusive use of Executive orders.

Look, TANF has worked amazingly well because of the work requirements in TANF. There is a good reason no other administration has tried to pull this type of a stunt.

Whether you agree with the administration or not, it seems to me we ought to first uphold the rights and powers of the legislative branch of government that cannot be circumvented just because a President wants to do something on his own. That is what is involved here. I think we ought to all stand, Democrats and Republicans, and say: Look, you are not going to be able to do this. If you want to do it, then you are going to have to do it through statutory changes or at least ask Congress for permission.

That is the purpose of asking for this vote which has been objected to. I guess we will do it during the lameduck session. But the purpose is to stand up for the rights of the Congress of the United States and especially the rights of the Senate that are being ignored.

There is a lot more I can say about it. That basically covers it. I appreciate my colleague's feelings on this matter, but to put it in the category that this is Mitt Romney trying something--Mitt Romney has had basically nothing to do with it other than he agrees with what we have done. He said that after we did it. He did not come to me and ask me to do it.

The fact is we are standing for the legislative prerogatives that we really ought to stand for and that the GAO said should be stood for because they declared it a rule. The GAO is not in the pockets of Republicans or Democrats; it is there to try to determine these types of issues that are extremely important legal issues, extremely important legislative issues, extremely important separation-of-powers issues.

So that is what we are doing here, and it really shouldn't even be a political issue. We ought to just vote and let it go at that. But it has been objected to, and I am willing to wait until the appropriate time to have a vote.


Mr. HATCH. Madam President, I would just add that if they want that type of authority, they should come to the Congress and ask for it because we put that authority subject to Congress's decisionmaking, and it shouldn't be done unilaterally by an out-of-control approach by the executive branch. That is what is involved, and it is important. Whether one is a Democrat or a Republican, we ought to have an understanding of the legislative and executive branches and our rights and prerogatives in Congress. There is nothing that says States can't add work requirements that are legitimate work requirements in the statute. They didn't need this type of unilateral decision by the HHS Department to do that. That is the point.


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