Politics

              President Barack Obama walks along the Colonnade at the White House in Washington, Friday, June 15, 2012, before heading to Chicago for the weekend with his family. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
              President Barack Obama walks along the Colonnade at the White House in Washington, Friday, June 15, 2012, before heading to Chicago for the weekend with his family. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)   

White House approved reversal of welfare reform

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the controversial July 12 rule that allow states to opt out of the successful, bipartisan and popular 1996 welfare reform law that required people on welfare to also work to maintain those benefits.

Both OMB and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius approved the new rules, Kenneth Wolfe, the department’s deputy director of public affairs, told The Daily Caller.

The department will not be holding a press conference about the rules, which remove a core element of the successful reform that halved the taxpayers’ welfare caseload.

The OMB is part of the White House, and works directly for President Barack Obama.

The new rule says HHS will welcome state proposals to replace work requirements with alternatives, such as job-training or classroom attendance.

Both OMB and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius approved the new rules, Kenneth Wolfe, the department’s deputy director of public affairs, told the The Daily Caller.

The department will not be holding a press conference about the rules, which reverse the core element of the successful reform which halved the taxpayers’ welfare caseload.

White House officials did not answer the TheDC’s request for information about the decision.

The work requirement was a key measure in the 1996 welfare reform law, which Clinton gradually accepted under GOP pressure, and at the urging of his chief political strategist, Dick Morris.

By endorsing the work requirement, Clinton was able to claim the role of centrist.

That decision also boosted his 1996 reelection campaign, following his disastrous losses in the 1994 mid-term elections that ended the Democrats’ 40-year majority in the House of Representatives.

But Obama’s decision to reverse Clinton’s centrist decision prior to the 2012 election increases Obama’s risk that the GOP can successfully portray him as an extremist.

The decision to rollback the popular work requirement comes as the the new media is highlighting the administration’s steps to increase the use of food stamps  among immigrants and people who decline to accept the government’s handout.

Obama’s decision to relax work requirement rules may not play well with voters in critical swing states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania. Silence from the Obama campaign on the change seems to confirm this.

GOP leaders, however, immediately highlighted the controversial move.

The July 12 rule may have been prompted by the failure of Obama’s economic policies, said a statement from House Speaker John Boehner’s office.

“Instead of working with Republicans to boost job creation, the president is simply disregarding the requirement that welfare recipients find work,” he said in a statement.

Roughly 23 million people are unemployed or underemployed. The unemployment rate is at least 8.2 percent, and the deficit and debt are at record levels.

Follow Neil on Twitter