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Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Voted for Welfare Waivers Three Times

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

House Republican hypocrisy will make yet another appearance tomorrow when the House GOP brings up their welfare waiver resolution. What they won't tell you is that in 2002, 2003, and 2005 Republicans passed legislation on the House floor that would have allowed waivers of the work participation requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. And yet, Republicans now criticize the Administration for putting forward much more limited waivers than Republicans have supported in the past.

"Republicans have a bad case of intentional amnesia, but they can't hide from their record," said Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI). "Not only are they being intentionally inaccurate, they are being completely hypocritical. Past Republican waiver proposals were broader in coverage than the Administration's current policy. While too broad in my view, their proposals would have allowed States to apply for a waiver to receive more flexibility under the welfare work participation standard. It is the very issue they are attacking the President on. Contrary to the steady stream of Republican misinformation, the Administration's action would lead to more people working, not fewer."

House Republicans passed three separate bills in 2002, 2003 and 2005 that included waivers (HR 4747 in 2002, HR 4 in 2003 and HR 4241 in 2005). While these waiver proposals were broader and affected many more programs than the policy now proposed by HHS, the Congressional Research Service confirms that all of these bills "would have had the effect of allowing TANF work participation standards to be waived."

Some of the Members that have most criticized the Administration's policy voted for these past welfare waivers. For example, Speaker Boehner, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp, and Budget Committee Chairman Ryan all voted for the waiver policy on all three occasions. A May 2002 article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel suggests Ryan was a leading proponent of waivers, stating "Ryan also got a provision included that is designed to make it easier for states to get broad waivers from federal rules in order to experiment with new programs."

The GOP attack is both hypocritical and wholly false:

President Clinton, who enacted the 1996 welfare law, said Romney's claim that the Administration is weakening work requirements for welfare is "not true" and that Administration "has taken important steps to ensure that the work requirement is retained."

Ron Haskins, the lead Republican Congressional staffer in charge of drafting the 1996 welfare reform law, has said "there is merit to what the Administration is proposing, and I don't see how you can get to the conclusion that the waiver provision undermines welfare reform."

Politifact declared the GOP claim that the waiver proposal would eliminate work requirements for welfare recipients as "pants on fire" false. The fact checker said the contrary was true, stating: "by grating waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them." says the Republican claim on the issue "distorts the facts" and is "simply not true." It reiterates that work requirements are not being dropped under the waiver proposal, and that "benefits still won't be paid beyond an allotted time."

The Fact Checker at the Washington Post rated the "over-the-top" claims as deserving four Pinocchios for being so dishonest.

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