Gutting Welfare: GAO Says Obama Must Submit Work Requirement Waiver Plan to Congress

Posted: Sep 05, 2012 4:19 PM
Republicans and the Romney campaign have been relentlessly hitting the Obama Administration on the proposed rule that would allow states to waive work requirements from the successful 1996 welfare reform law. Today, the Government Accountability Office issued a report that the Obama Administration's executive order must be submitted to Congress before it goes into effect:

In a legal opinion requested by Senator Orrin Hatch, Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Finance and Representative Dave Camp, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the GAO General Counsel's Office determined that the Department of Health and Human Services' recent memo making changes to operation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program... must be submitted to both Houses of Congress before it can take effect.

While Democrats have been crying foul over Republicans' attacks, the GAO has found that an attempt to institute this waiver process without Congressional review would be an illegal power grab. This will at least put a small bump in the road for the Obama Administration's attempt to relax one of the key components of welfare reform.

This doesn't mean that it would be easy for Congress to block Obama's welfare waiver plan, though. Under the rule that the GAO cited, all that's required is that the Administration submit the proposed plan in writing to Congress, not that it requires a vote to be implemented. As FDL reported, Congress would have to submit a joint resolution to "review" the regulation, and that might require 60 votes in the Senate. However, House Republicans can still make a lot of noise to try to raise awareness about these new welfaire work requirement waivers and possibly force an uncomfortable vote in the Senate.

The Obama Administraton's method of governance by executive order has been troubling recently, and in this case they've clearly attempted an overreach. While mainstream media "fact-checkers" have taken issue with the phrase "gutting welfare," the facts are that the Obama Administration is planning on allowing state governments to relax their work requirements. As Romney policy advisor Lanhee Chen said, "if you open the door, people are going to walk through it. He's expecting that."