“Now let’s turn to the agenda. You just heard Jon Favreau, who was the brain of Obama for so long say we have no agenda, and praised the Medicaid expansion. I am very skeptical of Medicaid expansion because of my experience in California where you end up getting paper and not health care. But part of our agenda is welfare reform. You’re spearheading that. What does it look like?”
“Republicans have a very positive, optimistic agenda, and are delivering on it – tax reform, rebuilding the military for our security, deregulating. This rebalancing regulation so Main Street businesses can grow again. And yeah, welfare reform is a key part of that.
“And so before we left for the Memorial Day weekend, the Ways and Means Committee passed a bill by Adrian Smith of Nebraska that restores the promise of the hugely successful 1996 welfare reform that was spearheaded by Newt Gingrich and ultimately signed by Bill Clinton.
“So here we have a booming economy today. We’ve got a jobs gap, millions of workers needed. Yet we have millions of people trapped on the sidelines in welfare. So this bill restores that promise, basically says look, in the past, states were required to engage half of the people on welfare to help get them to work.
“Today, many states are barely engaging anyone. So we have a new standard – all, 100%. Everyone who is work-eligible on welfare will have a plan signed by them and the state — to move them, train them toward work.
“We’re making sure the focus is on men and women. I say men, because we’ve got 7 million men who are missing — prime working age, ought to be in the workforce. They’re nowhere to be found. We think many of them are tied to the welfare families and can be frankly an important part of our economy as well.”
“And so people say work requirement. They immediately begin to think of Dickensian workhouses and terrible situations. What’s a work requirement really mean, Kevin Brady?”
“Yeah, what it means is there will be a tailored plan for each individual to move them back to work, whether it is to begin that part-time work leading to full-time work, whether it’s training that’s needed. Maybe there is a single mom whose only barrier is some child care or transportation to work, a good, smart, tailored accountability plan for every person who’s eligible to work on welfare ….
“And then the new standard under this JOBS Act…is not defined as a temporary one-month job and then sliding back into welfare. The new standard is that our welfare recipients get and keep that job so they can begin those first steps up the economic ladder.
“And we’re introducing not just more flexibility for states, but more accountability. So you know, everyone will be able to see how successful states are in moving people into a new opportunity for them.”
“What did the Obama Administration do that effectively Swiss-cheesed the welfare reform of 1996 that was so effective?”
“Yeah, the standards had begun to weaken, and they weakened them much further by basically not holding states accountable to engage people to move them into work and then broadening sort of with a wink and a nod what constituted work, so people really weren’t, you know, having to take the steps necessary to move them out of the welfare system and give them a shot at prosperity.
“And so I think the timing with the economy is right. You know, we can’t give up on people who are trapped in poverty. And as we know from the ’96 reforms led by Speaker Gingrich, you know, with that work requirement, with a plan to get to work, you know, we helped millions of women move into work, move off of poverty, and doubled their family’s income. I’m convinced we can do even more with women and men under these new welfare reforms.”
“When does it get to the Senate, if it gets to the Senate, Chairman Brady? And do you have a prayer of getting 60 votes?”
“Well, I’m hopeful. We’re going to move it to the, now that it’s come out of the committee, it’ll move to the floor this summer, we hope, is the timing, and then onto the Senate. And I think, look, these reforms, I think, are so common sense and so hopeful and optimistic for families that have really been — a lot of states and a lot of government have given up on them.
“And we’re not, and because of that, you know, because they’re tailored to each person to move them into work and a better life, I think it can, look, if Democrats are serious about helping the poor move into the mainstream, go from the sidelines to the front lines of employment, they ought to be joining us.”