CNN shot down Mitt Romney's claim that President Obama "gutted" welfare reform, despite experts who helped construct the actual 1996 law insisting that Obama did indeed strike at its heart by nullifying work requirements for welfare recipients.
"Problem is, President Obama calls this claim nuts," stated reporter Tom Foreman, who aired a clip of Obama calling it "patently false." Foreman relayed another White House talking point about how the states were granted waivers from some rules as long as the work participants increased by 20 percent, thus ensuring Obama's motive was to increase the law's effectiveness and not to change it wholesale.
That was the gist of Foreman's "fact-check": since states were the ones that asked for waivers on work requirements and Obama claimed he intended to increase work participation, his word was as good as gold. Forget the Republicans arguing to the contrary that the administration allowed for nullification of the work requirements, at the very core of the law.
"That might, in a small way, change precisely how work is calculated. But the essential goal of pushing welfare recipients to work remains in place," Foreman continued.
That notion was questioned by Peter Suderman of Reason magazine, who noted that "the easiest way" to expand the numbers of workers on welfare "is just to enroll far more people in the program." Hans Bader, senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, added that "Waiving work requirements in favor of job training" allures more people to the welfare ranks.
When the HHS directive was released in July, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, who helped fashion the 1996 law, stated that Obama "gutted" welfare reform."The new policy guts the federal work requirements that were the foundation of the reform law. The Obama directive bludgeons the letter and intent of the actual reform legislation," he wrote.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) co-authored the legislation, and he ripped into Obama's "turning back the clock" on welfare reform.
The Heritage Foundation's Andrew Grossman offered a detailed explanation of just what the Obama administration did to welfare reform. Essentially, states would be allowed to "evade" work requirements, specifically "Section 407’s 'definitions of work activities and engagement, specified limitations, verification procedures, and the calculation of participation rates'."
That section of the law was never meant to be tampered with, because welfare ranks could swell since the states could find creative excuses for "work" for welfare recipients.
Hans Bader maintained that the move was entirely illegal since the President did not let Congress vote on the changes. The administration acted on "the authority to waive its [the law's] work requirements, which were specifically designed not to be waivable," he wrote.
"Congress has the power to rewrite laws, not the president, and the Obama administration's action flouted the language, structure, and purpose of the welfare-reform law," Bader continued.
A transcript of the CNN report, which aired on CNN Newsroom on August 22 at 5:29 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
Former President BILL CLINTON: Join me as I sign the Welfare Reform bill.
TOM FOREMAN: (voice-over) Welfare reform was a big bipartisan success story in the mid-1990's. Signed by Bill Clinton, it fulfilled promises by the Democratic president and the Republican congress to push welfare recipients to work in exchange for their benefits. To end welfare as we know it. So the idea of another Democratic president, Barack Obama, taking the work requirement off of the table is political dynamite. Right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Romney for President Inc. ad) On July 12th, President Obama quietly ended the work requirement, gutting welfare reform. One of the most respected newspapers in America called it "nuts."
FOREMAN: Problem is, President Obama calls this claim nuts.
President BARACK OBAMA: Every single person here who's looked at it says it's patently false.
FOREMAN: (on camera) So where did this come from, this notion of a giant change in welfare rules? Oddly enough, it did not originate here in Washington, but rather out in the country.
FOREMAN: (voice-over) Several states, including some with Republican governors, asked the federal government for more flexibility in how they hand out welfare dollars. Specifically they want to spend less time on federal paperwork and more time experimenting with what they hope will be better ways of getting people connected to jobs. So the administration has granted waivers from some of the existing rules.
OBAMA: Giving them, those states, some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rules as long as it produced 20 percent increases in the number of people who are getting work.
FOREMAN: That might, in a small way, change precisely how work is calculated. But the essential goal of pushing welfare recipients to work remains in place. That's pretty much it. This clearly not an effort by the President to kill off the welfare work requirement. That's why even some Republicans have backed away.
Governor Romney's claim doesn't work. And we rate it "False."
(End Video Clip)