Republicans have embraced a widely debunked premise to attack President Obama for “gutting” welfare reform. But a House GOP bill that has already cleared a major committee would actually ax the welfare program’s work requirements, according to Congress’ nonpartisan referee.
The legislation — H.R. 4297, The Workforce Investment Improvement Act — was unveiled in March by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and cosponsored by six Republican colleagues. Among them was Education & Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN), who passed the bill through his committee in June.
The measure is aimed at streamlining workforce training by letting states slash redundant programs and consolidate them with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program — into one Workforce Investment Fund (WIF). States would be given so much flexibility that the restrictions in the 1996 welfare law need no longer apply, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
“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 concluded in a memo.
Shortly before the Education & Workforce Committee approved separate legislation Thursday to block Obama’s welfare waivers, the panel’s top Democrat invoked the Congressional Research Service findings and charged Republicans with hypocrisy.
“We’re dealing with a fabricated problem, driven by election year campaigns, instead of addressing real problems for American families,” said Education & Workforce Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA).
A spokesperson for Kline did not respond to a request for comment.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.