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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. CAMP. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.J.Res 188, a resolution to disapprove of the Department of Health and Human Services rule waiving the work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, cash welfare program. The requirement that 50 percent of a State's welfare caseload work, or prepare for work, was a central part of the bipartisan 1996 welfare reforms signed into law by President Clinton. Those reforms were overwhelmingly successful in reducing welfare dependency and poverty while increasing work and earnings. Unfortunately, President Obama said that he would have opposed such reforms had he been in Congress at that time. And so on July 12 of this year the Obama administration issued an ``information memorandum'' to waive the welfare work requirements in a blatant end-run around the current Congress.

The administration's action is unlawful on two fronts. First, the welfare work requirements are contained in a section of the Social Security Act, section 407, that may not be waived according to that law. Second, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined that the administration's ``information memorandum'' qualifies as a rule and therefore should have been officially submitted to the Congress for review before being issued. It was not.

Just yesterday, GAO released another report that found that HHS has never before issued any TANF waivers in the history of the program, including involving the TANF work requirements. More importantly, they found that when previous HHS Secretaries were asked about the possibility of waiving work requirements, HHS responded that ``the Department does not have authority to waive any of these provisions.'' That was the conclusion of the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, and at least, to date, the Obama administration.

When it comes to welfare work requirements, I guess we can say President Obama was for them before he was against them. Unfortunately, for the President, the American people do not agree with his original and most recent position on this issue. A recent survey shows that 83 percent support a work requirement as a condition for receiving welfare. And for good reason. The work requirement and other 1996 reforms are responsible for increasing employment of single mothers by 15 percent from 1996 to 2000, and decreasing welfare caseloads by 57 percent over the last decade-and-a-half.

But inexplicably, these results don't sit well with the Obama administration. They refuse to acknowledge their mistake and rescind their memorandum. That's why we've brought this resolution to the floor today.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to preserve the successful welfare work requirements and join me in passing this resolution.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. CAMP. I yield myself 30 seconds only because the gentleman referred to me.

I will just say that the issue that he refers to was actually to extend the work requirements to other programs, which actually would have increased the work requirements.

Let me just say, I'm glad my friend brought up the fact checkers, because The Washington Post fact checker calls the Democrats' claims of increasing work ``a stretch,'' stating that it is not clear that ``the net result is that more people on welfare will end up working,'' and actually gave the ``eloquent speech'' by President Clinton my friend referenced two Pinocchios for saying that it would increase work by 20 percent.

At this time I would yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Paulsen), a Member of the Ways and Means Committee.


Mr. CAMP. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of the time.

When the bipartisan welfare reform bill was passed in 1996 and ultimately signed by President Clinton, the work requirement was a key part of that welfare bill. And the work requirement is this: that at least 50 percent of the caseload has to be engaged in work. And the principle was that, if you're able-bodied, you ought to be working if you're going to be receiving Federal benefits.

Now, the statute named 12 different things that qualify as work. Most of us think of work as going actually to employment, but there are 12 things. And a couple of them, let me just say, such as job search and job readiness actually, under current law, qualify for work. Vocational training and education qualifies for work as long as it doesn't exceed 1 year.

Also put into the statute was a clear statement that the work requirement could not be waived, because changing the paradigm on welfare was absolutely critical. And as I said in my opening statement, it has been important to reducing welfare caseloads, to bringing people to independence, to reducing child poverty. Those were all critical goals that have been met.

Let me read what Dr. Haskins, the Staff Director of the Ways and Means Committee--and I was on the Ways and Means Committee; I helped write the welfare bill; I was on the conference committee--said at that time, in terms of waivers. ``Waivers''--and this is the committee report.

Waivers granted after the date of enactment may not override provisions of the TANF law that concern mandatory work requirements.

That's because this was such an important part of the change that we were trying to bring to welfare. And it's been very successful, some might say the most successful social change that has occurred.

So every administration since then, whether it was the Clinton administration or the Bush administration or even at the beginning of the Obama administration, recognized that work requirements could not be waived. There is plain language in the statute in section 407 that says the work requirement cannot be waived.

Then here comes the Obama administration, through an information memorandum, that now both the GAO and the Congressional Research Service say is really a rule; and I would like to place in the Record both the letter of September 4 and the September 12 Congressional Research Service memorandum, both which say that the administration action was a rule.

The full CRS report I am inserting Ðin the Record is available online at Ð Xwhether Xthe Xtanf Xinformation Xmemorandum Xis Xa Xrule Xunder Xthe Xcra Xredacted X 5.pdf

Now comes the administration saying, Well, we don't have to go to Congress to change the law. Even though Congress voted on this in a bipartisan way and this was a critical piece of major legislation, we're just going to send in an information memorandum and have unelected bureaucrats change the law of the land.

People who sort of referee things around here, like the GAO and CRS, said, No. Hold it. Stop. This is not an information memorandum. This is a rule.

If an administration wants to promulgate a rule, there are certain criteria that they have to follow. The reason is that unelected people are making law. So, in order to do that, they have to inform the Congress, and they have to do certain things, none of which the administration did. Let me read a piece of this information memorandum:

Projects that test systematically extending the period in which vocational education training or job search-readiness programs count toward participation rates, either generally or for particular subgroups, such as an extended training period.

Under the law I just said, vocational training can only last a year. This information memorandum reads you can be in training for longer than a year. Number one, that is weakening the work requirement. Number two, they did not follow the law by notifying the Congress. They need to go back, and they need to issue a rule.

Frankly, if this is that important to them, come engage the Congress. There has been no consultation. There has not been one staff person from HHS who has come up and had an opportunity to brief any of us on this. I am willing to work with the administration. I'd like to hear their ideas. I'd like to have that opportunity to do so. I think it is regrettable that we've gotten to this point, but we've gotten to this point because there has been a mistake. They made a mistake, and they need to withdraw that.

I urge that we support the resolution. This is too important to have unelected bureaucrats make the law of the land.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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