A new television ad from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee airing in Virginia accuses President Barack Obama of attempting to “gut” federally funded welfare-to-work programs, a charge the Obama campaign and the White House vigorously disputes.
The Obama administration last month issued a directive that would allow states to seek waivers to experiment with “more effective mechanisms for helping families succeed in employment.” In a memo accompanying the directive, George Sheldon, the acting assistant secretary of health and human services, wrote that states have “offered a range of suggestions for ways in which expanded flexibility could lead to more effective employment outcomes for families.”
Some conservatives have claimed that the flexibility could allow states to get around the welfare-to-work requirement that was a centerpiece of a bipartisan reform package that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. In a Monday op-ed piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Gov. Bob McDonnell asserted that Obama “took steps to remove one of its central requirements.”
The Romney ad opens with an image of Clinton signing the bill and accuses Obama of dropping the work requirement altogether.
“Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” an announcer says in the ad. “They just send you your welfare check.”
Obama’s campaign answered the attack this morning and reminded reporters that Romney requested welfare flexibility for states while serving as governor of Massachusetts. Romney signed onto a 2005 letter with other Republican governors supporting a Senate bill that would have given states flexibility to manage their programs. Romney’s campaign said today that the flexibility the governors were seeking was not related to the work requirements.
“Mitt Romney continues to make statements that he knows are both untrue and hypocritical,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith. “The Obama administration, working with the Republican governors of states like Nevada and Utah, is giving states additional flexibility only if they move more people from welfare to work – not fewer. But as governor, Mitt Romney petitioned the federal government for waivers that would have let people stay on welfare for an indefinite period, ending welfare reform as we know it, and even created a program that handed out free cars to welfare recipients. These false and extremely hypocritical attacks demonstrate how Mitt Romney lacks the core strength and principles the nation needs in a President.”
– Michael Sluss