I rise today in support of H.J.Res. 118, a resolution to disapprove of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 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 the 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 and unlawful 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 (GAO) determined that the Administration’s “information memorandum” qualifies as a rule and therefore should have been officially submitted to Congress for review prior to being issued. It was not.
And 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 the provisions.” That was the conclusion of the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration and, at least previously, the Obama Administration. When it comes to welfare work requirements, I guess we can say President Obama was against them, before he 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 is why we have 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.