News Releases

July 18, 2012

Federal agency doesn’t have authority to rewrite welfare law

Enzi joins others on bill that would prohibit illegitimate work requirement direction from agency

President Obama is attempting to circumvent Congress again, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. This time the Obama Administration is rewriting bipartisan welfare laws agreed to in the 1990's so that work requirements can be ignored.

Enzi joined Finance Committee Ranking Member, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in introducing the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act.  The legislation would prohibit the Obama Administration from unilaterally granting itself the authority to exempt states from the work requirements that were part of the 1996 welfare reform law.

“Elected officials are held accountable by the public through elections.  Those elected to Congress make the laws.  That’s the way our system works, but it breaks down when a decree, bypassing the law and born in the anonymity of a federal agency office cubicle, is passed down from on high,” said Enzi.  “With this Administration more government is always the answer even if no questions have been asked.”

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued "guidance" last week to states about the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) requirements.  The HHS guidance attempts to explain how states can now seek "waivers" of work requirements for welfare recipients for the first time since the TANF program was created in the 1996 welfare reform law.  This HHS guidance is not in response to any change in TANF law.  Nor does it follow up on any proposal from the Obama Administration that seeks to make policy changes to TANF through the regular
legislative process.

“Bed rest should not count as work, nor should many other activities already rejected by those who worked on this law.  The Department of Health and Human Services does not have the authority to unilaterally change what activities are authorized by the current law,” Enzi said.

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