House panels advance bill blocking Obama's welfare waivers

Two House committees passed a bill to block the Obama administration's controversial welfare waivers, setting the stage for a floor vote on the measure.  

The Ways and Means and Education and Workforce committees advanced the resolution (H.J.Res.118) along party lines Thursday morning. The final votes were 18-14 and 22-16, respectively.

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In markup, the panels continued familiar debates over the policy, which has become a flashpoint in the presidential race. 

The administration says waivers will only go to states that use them to move more people from welfare into jobs. Republicans counter that the policy "guts" the work requirement underlying the current welfare system — a claim fact-checking organizations have challenged.

On Thursday, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) rejected the administration's defense that the new policy is pro-work.

"The simple fact is increasing work is not the goal of waiving the work requirements," Camp said during the markup. "Instead, expanding how many people receive benefits appears to be the goal."

Camp also charged that the administration bypassed Congress in the way it authorized the waivers. He promised a full House vote against the policy "in the coming days."

Democrats responded by calling the GOP objections politically motivated.

"The purpose of the Obama administration’s proposal was increase the number of people moving from welfare to work," said Ways and Means ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.). "Both Republican and Democratic governors indicated interest in waivers that would help them achieve this very goal."

Turning to the GOP resolution against the waivers, Levin said it was "not about process or policy, but politics, pure politics."

"This legislation is an effort to pursue a claim that has been thoroughly discredited by independent fact-checkers," Levin said. "It raises serious questions as to [Republicans'] motivation on this bill."

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has torn into President Obama on the waivers, saying in one ad that the policy means sending welfare checks to people who don't work.

Romney's critics charge that the statement is a bid for the votes of white, working-class voters who see welfare as handouts to African-Americans.