Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and TANF Extension Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Sandy Levin
Date: March 13, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEVIN. I yield myself such time as I shall consume.

Bringing up this bill today is doubly unfortunate. Number one, this is a time when we should be coming together--or at least trying to. This is a time when we should not try some partisan efforts. Unfortunately, that's what this is all about. This bill is essentially a pure fabrication of what is true.

Last summer the administration came forth with a proposal: states would be allowed to apply for waivers and have some flexibility in terms of the application of the work requirements--not the end of them or changing them, but the implementation of them--provided any project would be required to increase employment by at least 20 percent. So this claim that what is being done here is an effort to put at risk the work requirements is fallacious.

What happened? After HHS spoke, the Romney campaign decided they might have a campaign issue. So they essentially put together a campaign ad with the fallacious claim that what the Obama administration was trying to do was to weaken welfare reform. The instantaneous reaction of fact checkers was four Pinocchios, pants on fire, complete untruth.

And this is what Ron Haskins had to say, the Republican person on the staff most involved with the chairman and myself:

The idea that the administration is going to try to overturn welfare reform is ridiculous. States have to apply individually for waivers, and they have to explain in detail why the approach would lead to either more employment or better jobs for people who are trying to stay off welfare.

Indeed, earlier in 2005, 29 Republican Governors wrote asking if they could obtain a waiver in terms of the implementation of the work requirements, and on three occasions the Republicans brought legislation to the floor which would have brought about this kind of a waiver.

Here's what was said by President Clinton, who worked on welfare reform and signed it in 1996:

When some Republican Governors asked if they could have waivers to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama administration listened.

And I insert at this point that there was a request from the Republican Governor of Utah.

I continue with the quote:

Because we all know it is hard for even people with good work histories to get jobs today. So moving folks from welfare to work is a real challenge, and the administration agreed to give waivers to those Governors and others only if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent, and they could keep the waivers only if they did increase employment. Now, did I make myself clear? The requirement was for more work, not less.

So this was tried last year. There was an effort by the Republicans. They came forth with a bill. The campaign was full blast. And what they wanted to do was to reaffirm or to support a political ad by their candidate for President. That's what that was all about.

We had a vote along partisan lines. And as we said, it went nowhere in the Senate. By the way, I don't think it helped their Presidential candidate as it was so blatantly false, so patently political.

The election is over. The people have spoken. The President has been reelected. Why bring up this political horse? It's worse than lame; it's mistaken.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. LEVIN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

It's so ironical it's worse than that. The Republicans are in their budget saying, ``let's block grant Medicaid and all nutrition programs and send back those programs entirely to the States in the name of flexibility.'' And now they come forth arguing that the proposal of this administration to provide flexibility to the States, if requested, and if it increases work participation 20 percent, they throw up their hands and say, ``no.'' It's worse than contradictory.

CRS has made clear the following:

The Secretary's interpretation of her current authority under section 1115 with regard to waivable TANF provisions under section 402 appears consistent with the Secretary's practice under the same provision as it existed under the AFDC program.

TANF is going to be extended. We don't need to do it with this provision that harks back to the campaign. The 20 percent requirement, the Secretary made clear, it isn't waiving the work requirement; it's letting the States implement it. It was requested by the Governor of Utah, a Republican.

Bill Clinton has been mentioned so often. And I just urge everybody to listen to what he said. It strengthens the work requirements:

The requirement was for more work, not less.

So to come forth here and say that it weakens it is fallacious, to put it mildly.

Do you know what this is in a few words? This is an effort in 2013 to validate a fallacious political ad of the year 2012. And that's worse than unhappy when this place is searching for some ability to work together.

The election is over. Let's get on with the work ahead of us.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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