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Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and TANF Extension Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 890. I urge members of both parties to oppose this legislation, which in only a few pages demonstrates all that is wrong with Washington--politicians putting partisan concerns ahead of constructive policy. Governors from several states have overcome partisan differences to support the waivers H.R. 890 wishes to eliminate. Let us follow their lead and defeat this legislation together.

H.R. 890 is a simplistic bill. It prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services from giving effect to the July 2012 guidance that granted states waivers regarding the design of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs. It also prohibits further experimentation, banning pilot programs or demonstration programs that could potentially revolutionize TANF, making it more effective and less costly. Though these changes seem small, they can mean a world of difference for families in need of the training and educational opportunities that new approaches to TANF could provide.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is one of the most remarkable pieces of work that I have ever seen considered on this floor. Not because it is such a bad piece of policy. Not because of how abominably it misrepresents the current state of federal and state practices. Not even because we are still litigating a claim which was dreamed up by a failed presidential campaign last summer, and which was roundly rejected by the American people.

No, Mr. Speaker, this legislation is remarkable because my friends across the aisle are demanding that we wrest control from the states in favor of a more inflexible and inefficient approach. The claims of federalism invoked by my Republican colleagues in so many of legislative battles I have witnessed over the years are nowhere to be heard.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 890 is wrong--and it is wrong for all the wrong reasons.

Despite H.R. 890's claims, the waivers granted to TANF program operators in July 2012 do not weaken TANF's work requirements--they strengthen them. These waivers provide states with the opportunity to determine what works best for them. These waivers allow states to experiment with alternative employment and training programs that reflect the varied problems confronting TANF recipients who wish to join the work force. Successful programs can then be replicated in other states and limited resources can be stretched further to ensure more effort is expended finding jobs instead of complying with red tape.

Despite what H.R. 890 presumes, these waivers won't lead to TANF recipients laying on hammocks, but rather are the key to unlocking the potential of men and women who want their own piece of the American dream. The waivers will allow program officials to provide the training and education necessary for many beneficiaries to join the ever more competitive labor market. Further, they will allow states to tailor their programs to the specific demands of their local economies, and ensure that TANF continues to improve in its mission to see recipients become self-sufficient. This--Mr. Speaker--is what good government looks like. This--Mr. Speaker--is why Republican and Democratic governors across the nation support these waivers.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my friends across the aisle to put aside partisan concerns for just this moment and vote their conscience on this matter. I want them to ask whether they can in good conscience continue to oppose these commonsense reforms simply because it plays well with the fringes of their party. I want them to consider what it will sound like next time I hear from them that the federal government is too large and should cede more authority to the states. I want them to consider what people will hear when they claim to favor state solutions to national problems. Quite simply I want them to consider their professed principles instead of partisan politics--for if they do, they cannot support H.R. 890.

I urge everyone, Democrat and Republican, to vote ``no'' on H.R. 890. We've litigated this long enough--lets finally put it to rest.


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