Mitt Romney is continuing to run racially charged ads that accuse President Obama of ending the work requirement in welfare—”they just send you your welfare check,” a narrator ominously intones, in reference to the new Obama policy. Numerous independent fact-checkers have judged the ads to be not just false, but hypocritical. As Massachusetts governor in 2005, Romney himself signed a letter (pdf) requesting exactly the sort of flexibility on welfare that’s at issue here. And Obama was acting in response to a similar request from two Republican governors this year.
But it turns out that the political cynicism of Romney’s attack goes even further. Earlier this summer, House Republicans themselves voted for a bill that really could allow states to end welfare’s work requirement, according to an authoritative and nonpartisan congressional analysis.
In June, On June 7, all 23 Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee—including prominent members like Buck McKeon, Duncan Hunter, and Joe “You Lie!” Wilson—voted for a measure to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). According to a memo produced by the Congressional Research Service—a nonpartisan research arm of Congress—and posted online (pdf) by committee Democrats, the bill would allow states to consolidate money for welfare and other work-related programs into a single “Workforce Investment Fund.” That would then mean that the welfare funds, known as TANF funds, were no longer subject to the requirements under which they’d previously existed.
As CRS explains:
Thus, for example, if TANF funds were consolidated into the WIF, TANF program requirements (e.g., work requirements) may no longer apply to that portion of funding because the TANF funding would not exist (i.e., it would be part of the WIF and thus subject to WIF program requirements)
CRS declined to discuss the memo, but it’s clear that, according to CRS’s analysis, under certain circumstances, the bill could allow states to eliminate the work requirement under welfare.
What’s the point here? It’s not that House Republicans are the ones who really want to relax the rules so that shifty welfare recipients can laze around all day while getting mailed a check. The change they voted for, giving states more flexibility to consolidate different workforce funds, may well make sense. But that’s exactly the case with the Obama adminisitration’s policy change, too. So the GOP’s vote points up—as if further evidence were needed—just how dishonest and politically motivated the Romney camp’s attack is.