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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. PAULSEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.J. Res. 118. This is a resolution that will protect welfare work requirements from executive overreach, ensuring that welfare recipients must continue to work in order to qualify for benefits.

As acting chairman of the Human Resources Subcommittee, I just want to talk real quickly about how this resolution accomplishes two very simple objectives.

First, the resolution simply affirms congressional authority over welfare programs by invalidating the overreaching HHS rule.

Back in July, HHS unilaterally granted itself the authority to rewrite the work requirements, claiming that they can approve or disapprove work rules at the State level. But that's just not how Congress intended this to work.

Both the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service agree that this HHS proposal is far more than guidance to States. It constitutes a new rule that must first be submitted to Congress for review before it can take effect.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, this resolution lets States know where Congress stands on the importance of strong work requirements.

The 1996 welfare reform law, which first created these strong work requirements, was a historic bipartisan achievement. The result was a program that heavily emphasizes engaging welfare recipients in work and pro-work activities. Before the HHS guidance, States knew what the rules were. However, in the wake of this new HHS rule, it's not clear what the rules are now.

HHS seems intent now to simply make up the rules as they go along. That's what an anonymous HHS official told The Washington Post recently, describing how this policy of waiving work requirements was evolving in an ``iterative process.''

The administration's defense that these changes will strengthen the work requirements is not reassuring because it just doesn't make sense. If States want to engage more welfare recipients in work for more hours and with tougher penalties for failing to work, there's nothing that stops them from doing so under current law. They don't need a waiver to apply to do any of that.

Simple logic simply says that the HHS guidance is about weakening, not strengthening, work requirements for welfare recipients.


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