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Disapproving Rule Relating to Waiver and Expenditure Authority with Respect to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 4 minutes.

The House meets today to spend time debating a resolution that is on a purely fabricated problem. Rather than focusing on the real problems facing American families, we are, instead, focusing on a resolution of disapproval--a resolution that does not create a single job.

In July, the administration announced a waiver process under the welfare law that would allow Governors to use innovative approaches to move more welfare recipients into employment. Immediately, Washington Republicans claimed the waiver would gut the welfare reform; but fact checker after fact checker has publicly discredited attempts to characterize the waiver as going soft on work requirements, and we are still waiting for the majority to show us exactly where the administration's waiver proposal eliminates the work requirement.

Even the Republican staff director of the Ways and Means Committee subcommittee at the time of the 1996 welfare reform law says that these claims are false. In fact, the administration has even clarified the rules, writing that no State will get a waiver unless it shows an increase in employment of 20 percent.

Actually, the Republican position here is fairly consistent. They haven't done anything here to create new jobs. They're against welfare recipients getting jobs, and they're against Governors increasing employment opportunities by 20 percent. So I guess we now know, in these last waning days of session, that the Republican Party here is against all jobs. No matter who is standing in line for the jobs, they're against those jobs even though the Republican Governors have petitioned for the right to change the welfare law so they can put more people to work. The administration says you can do that if you put 20 percent more people to work. Imagine putting 20 percent more people to work on the welfare rolls of California or New Jersey or Texas, but the Republicans say no.

The Republican Governors and Democratic Governors asked for this authority in 2002, 2003, and 2005, and the House passed a much broader waiver authority in trying to give the Governors, if you will, State flexibility. That's what they were asking for, but now all of a sudden, in this political year, their candidate is running a little behind, so we see this as an effort to try to attack the President of the United States for doing exactly what the Republican Governors and what the Republicans in Congress have done and have voted on and passed.

As President Clinton says, it takes brass to denounce something that you, yourself, have already supported. The hypocrisy doesn't stop there, but you've got to have a lot of hypocrisy when you're defending a candidate who believes in everything and stands for nothing.

Just weeks before the administration announced its waiver process, the Republican Workforce Investment bill was reported out of my committee. The mantra of the Republicans all through that bill and all through the consideration over the last couple years has been ``State flexibility.'' Well, they accomplished it in this bill. It provides so much State flexibility that the State with an approved unified workforce training plan can, at the State's discretion, eliminate all work requirements from TANF. It passed out of the Education and the Workforce Committee on a partisan vote, with all Republicans supporting that effort to let Governors eliminate all work requirements.

So this debate is a little bit behind the times and is probably not dealing with the serious problem, which is the reauthorization of the Republican Workforce Incentive Act. What a difference a few weeks and a convention make, and here we are using the valuable time of this House before we go to adjournment to carry out a political prank--a manufactured problem, a fabricated problem--based upon fabricated facts. Yet still we don't see ourselves dealing with the questions of middle class tax cuts, and we don't see ourselves dealing with jobs bills that we've been asking for time and again while this Congress has been in session.

It's a sad way to end this session of the Congress of the United States without providing the access to those jobs that this Congress could have been providing throughout this entire year to strengthen the economy. Then again, as the Senate leader has said, they don't want to work with this President. They want him to fail. And for him to fail, that means the American people can't have jobs. That's the goal here.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this is all interesting, except the fact is there's nothing in what the Secretary of Health and Human Services has proposed that's inconsistent with the Republican position over the years, with the Bush administration position over the years, with the Clinton administration position over the years and the Obama administration position over the years, and that is that when they passed historic welfare reform there would be an authority in there so, as the Governors lived with this over time, they could make adjustments. And that's why we keep reciting to the various instances when Governors have asked for this--29 Governors of both parties, a couple of Republican Governors recently--asking for this authority, because they thought they had a better way to put it to work.

It's rather interesting today that one of the questions is whether or not we would extend the education time so people can get the proper credentials, the proper training for a job. Many people have been unemployed now for a couple of years from a job that may not be coming back and the skills they have need to either be updated or they have to learn new skills to get the job that's available in their locality or maybe a ways down the road.

It's also interesting that the Business Roundtable is in Washington this week talking about this exact problem: How do we develop those new skills because of the skills mismatch that exists in this country today for hundreds of thousands of jobs that are available, but apparently the skills are not there?

Now, I wonder if that skills training so that that person can get a job in a good industry and a good job, what if that takes 13 months as opposed to 12 months or what if it takes 8 months instead of 6 months? Why don't we live with the Governors having the flexibility if they believe that's the economic plan for their arrangement?

We see consortiums now, because of the Higher Ed Act, coming together--community colleges, State universities, manufacturing consortiums, employer consortiums--developing the programs to develop the skills for the American workforce. And some of that is inconsistent with the requirements under this law, and that's why Governors who want to move to the future came and asked for that relief. And that waiver authority exists in the Social Security Act. That waiver authority is explicitly for this purpose.

But in the name of politics, we're going to deny those States that are struggling, those Governors that are struggling, with the ability to do this. And under the rules, as the memorandum has suggested, they would have to show a very substantial increase in moving people from welfare to work. Supposedly, that's the goal of everybody who's a Member of this body, but politics is has overwhelmed that.

If you had these concerns, we could have fixed it and moved on with getting people off of welfare to work. But we will leave here with some kind of political statement, a hollow political victory that means nothing except that those people will still be waiting to get off of welfare and go to work. The Governors will still be waiting to implement the program to get them off of welfare and go to work. And the Congress will go home.

In the face of the desperate need of these people to acquire these skills to improve their talents, to provide for these families, to feed their kids, to educate them, to provide for health care, the Congress will go home. It won't give the Governors this authority because it'll look bad for their Presidential candidate. They won't give the Governors this authority because they can score a point here. Those Governors weren't trying to score a point. They were trying to score some jobs. They were trying to score some jobs for their citizens.

But political games are going to win out here because the clock is running out on this Congress. So we could have helped those Governors. You could have tweaked this so you could have said you change from what President Obama wanted, and we could have gone on and people could have had opportunity in America. You keep saying you're for it, you just don't get around to providing it.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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