By Ramsey Cox
“I’m introducing this bill because the Obama administration grossly underminded the constitutional authority of the legislative branch to affect changes to settled law,” Hatch said on the floor.
“The Obama administration quietly released ‘guidance’ to the states informing them that the administration had granted itself authority to waive work requirements in TANF,” Hatch said. “In the 16 years since the creation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, no administration has concluded that they have the authority to waive the TANF work requirements.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the changes speed job placement.
"The changes proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services are designed to accelerate job placement by moving more Americans from welfare to work as quickly as possible," Carney said Wednesday. "There will be no waivers of the time limits in the law, and only waivers with compelling plans to move more people off of welfare and into work will be considered. This policy will allow states to test new, more effective ways to help people get and keep a job."
TANF includes the commonly called “welfare-to-work” program, which requires those receiving welfare payments to be employed or prove they’re looking for work.
Hatch said his bill, S. 3397, would not change TANF, just make it clear that the president doesn’t have the authority to change the law.
Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), John Cornyn (Texas), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Thune (S.D.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) were listed as co-sponsors by Hatch.
Carney pointed out that some of the bill's co-sponsors have supported some waivers to TANF in the past.
"If I could address some of the hypocritical criticism — I have been surprised by it — by the hypocrisy of our critics since many of them have in the past supported and even proposed such waivers," Carney said.
During the 2005 welfare reauthorization, Grassley advocated for Republican governors who wanted flexibility to make changes to TANF.
Hatch admitted on the floor that the current program isn't perfect but said the administration shouldn't bypass Congress.