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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Romney Ad Attacks Obama on Welfare Waivers


Seven years ago, Mitt Romney joined other governors to urge the federal government to grant “increased waiver authority” to states to experiment with implementation of the federal welfare-to-work program.

But as he runs for president, Mr. Romney and his Republican allies are now accusing President Obama of “gutting” the welfare program by saying it will consider waivers to states.

On Tuesday, Mr. Romney elevated that argument to a new level, releasing a new attack ad accusing Mr. Obama of quietly announcing “a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.”

“Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check,” the ad says.

Mr. Romney's campaign bases that accusation on concerns expressed by conservatives who say they fear new waivers for states could be used to undermine the fe deral rules that were overhauled in 1996 to require welfare recipients to work or receive training.

An assessment of Mr. Obama's waiver change by the Heritage Foundation describes it as a “trick to get around work requirements.”

“The new welfare dictate issued by the Obama administration clearly guts the law,” the Heritage Foundation concluded. “The administration tramples on the actual legislation passed by Congress and seeks to impose its own policy choices - a pattern that has become all too common in this administration.”

In a memorandum released Tuesday, Lanhee Chen, Mr. Romney's policy director, writes that Mr. Obama's willingness to grant waivers to states reflects a desire to do away with work requirements that were central to the reforms of the mid-1990s.

“This policy change undermines the very premise of welfare reform,” Mr. Chen writes. “It is an insult to Americans on welfare who are looking for an opportunity to build be tter lives for themselves. And it is a kick in the gut to the millions of hard-working middle-class taxpayers struggling in today's economy.”

The president's campaign calls those accusations absurd, noting that the recent requests for waivers came from five states, including two - Utah and Nevada - which are governed by Republicans.

A defense of the president's action on his campaign Web site notes that “states say that their caseworkers spend more time completing paperwork than helping people get work.” The waivers are aimed at giving states flexibility to address that problem, Mr. Obama's campaign says.

“Waivers that weaken or undercut welfare reform will not be approved,” the campaign writes. “Waivers will not be granted to avoid time limits on when assistance may be provided. The only waivers that will be granted will test approaches that can do a better job at promoting work among families receiving assistance.”

The president's camp aign notes the letter that Mr. Romney and more than a dozen other governors wrote in 2005, seeking more flexibility.

“By joining some in his party to falsely criticize a policy that empowers states to implement welfare reform, Romney has made it clear that he is far more interested in another political attack against the president than he is in actually finding solutions,” Mr. Obama's campaign writes.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.