The Obama administration has moved yet again to circumvent Congress. Last week, the Obama Department of Health and Human Services issued a new policy directive which gutted the work requirements of President Clinton’s welfare reform law of 1996.
As we face looming financial disaster, the current administration has moved to expand the culture of entitlement by no longer requiring recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to work or prepare for work as a condition for receiving this welfare aid.
According the Heritage Foundation’s Morning Bell:
This reform was very successful. TANF became the only welfare program (out of more than 70) that promoted greater self-reliance. It moved 2.8 million families off the welfare rolls and into jobs so that they were providing for themselves. Child poverty fell, and single-parent employment rose. Recipients were required to perform at least 20–30 hours per week of work or job preparation activities in exchange for the cash benefit.
Now, Obama’s HHS is claiming that it can waive those work requirements that are at the heart of the law, and without Congress’s consent.
The new directive states that the TANF work requirement can be waived or over-ridden using something known as the “section 1115 waiver authority”. That section of the Social Security law says that “the Secretary may waive compliance with any of the requirements” of specified parts of different laws – however, it is not carte blanche authority. In fact, the ONLY provisions that can be waived under section 1115 must be contained in section 1115. The work provisions of the TANF program are not.
When TANF was created in the late 90’s, Congress deliberately exempted most of the program from the section 1115 waiver authority so that the laws could not be rewritten via directives from HHS. In fact, only one section of the TANF law falls under section 1115 – state reporting requirements.
The bureaucratic gymnastics to exempt the work requirements are frightening in their implications. With this new directive, HHS guts the core of TANF, allowing them to rewrite the law at will, via rules, regulations and directives – but keeping Congress completely out of the loop. They do so in clear opposition to the 2001 findings of the Congressional Research Service and the intent of the law as written. The 2001 finding states explicitly that the limited authority to waive state reporting requirement in section 402 does not grant authority to override work and other major requirements in the other sections of the TANF law
This is a not the first time President Obama has gone around Congress to push his agenda. It’s not even the first time in the last month. In the face of exploding costs – welfare spending has grown more rapidly than Social Security and Medicare, education, and defense – the work requirements of the TANF program were a step in the right direction. Now, instead of working towards REDUCING the size and scope of a nation’s dependence on government programs, we now have one more program we can’t pay for – and no incentive for recipients to get off.
Congress must reassert its authority as a check and balance against the executive branch. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the unprecedented power grabs of the current administration.