Gingrich slams Obama on welfare revamp

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused President Barack Obama and his “even more radical” appointees on Wednesday of plotting to destroy the work requirement in the 1996 welfare reform law.

Obama and his aides “have a real fight and it is a fight they can’t possibly win,” he said.

“This happens to be an issue that is devastating for liberals… [many voters are] really offended by government giving away money for nothing,” Gingrich said during a press conference arranged by the Republican National Committee.

Obama’s deputies are pushing back against Mitt Romney’s new focus on the July decision by the department of Health and Human Services to relax welfare-to-work rules.

Romney said Tuesday the change is an “insult” to hard-working Americans.

In July, HHS invited states to conduct “demonstration projects” that could exempt welfare recipients from long-standing work requirements.

Obama’s aides say the new proposal won’t reduce the popular requirement that welfare recipients also work, and they argue that officials will only approve projects that actually boost work rates by 20 percent.

To back up their case, Obama’s aides on Wednesday highlighted a statement by Ron Haskins, a former GOP staffer who helped write the 1996 reform bill. “There’s no plausible scenario under which [the July rewrite] really constitutes a serious attack on welfare reform,” Haskins, who is the co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, said in a radio interview.

“I was sorry that he has such a lack of imagination,” responded Gingrich, who led the fight in 1995 and 1996 to reform welfare laws, and to establish welfare-to-work rules.

During the congressional debate, “the left-wingers who were opposed to a work-requirement screamed ‘racism!’ and jumped up and down,” he said, because they have “a deep, deep, bitter opposition to work requirements.”

To prevent regulatory loopholes, conservatives wrote a stringent “non-waivable” section into the 1996 law requiring welfare recipients to actually work, Gingrich said. They also defined work narrowly to exclude then-approved “work activities, including bed-rest [and] getting a massage,” he said.

The progressives’ ideological opposition to work requirements means that when Obama “unilaterally issues a work-waiver… our immediate assumption is that he is setting up a dramatic reduction in the work requirement,” Gingrich said.

“It is not just that Obama is a radical – the people he appoints are even more radical,” Gingrich added. “The secretary of HHS is radical… Why would any Americans believe [that] she’s going to enforce a work requirement?”

Obama’s push to relax work-to-welfare rules are part of a desire to make Americans dependent on government, Gingrich said.

“We believe in work and education, they believe in food stamps and dependency,” Gingrich said.

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