GOP threatens to subpoena waivers from federal welfare reform requirements

Two prominent GOP lawmakers are threatening to subpoena documents related to the Obama administration's decision to grant waivers under welfare reform. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOvernight Finance: NAFTA defenders dig in | Tech pushes Treasury to fight EU on taxes | AT&T faces setback in merger trial | Dems make new case against Trump tax law | Trump fuels fight over gas tax What sort of senator will Mitt Romney be? Not a backbencher, even day one Lawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves MORE (R-Utah) demanded details of the policy from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a letter Monday.

They named Feb. 15 as a deadline, and citing past requests for information from HHS, threatened to legally compel any documents not received by that date. 

"This is not an action the Committee on Ways and Means takes lightly, and one we have sought to avoid," Camp and Hatch wrote to HHS Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusPro-dependency advocates miss the mark in attacking Kansas welfare reform Pence breaks tie to confirm Trump's pick for religious ambassador The House needs to help patients from being victimized by antiquated technology MORE. "However, because of the continued delay … it is a step that appears to be required." 

The Obama administration's welfare policy became a major issue in the 2012 election as Camp, Hatch and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused Obama of "gutting" welfare's work requirement.

Under the HHS policy, states can apply for federal waivers to test programs designed to increase employment among welfare recipients. States must, in turn, prove their programs are effective at lowering joblessness among welfare beneficiaries, or lose the waivers.

The Obama administration said the change was endorsed by the Bush administration and cited requests for flexibility from both Republican- and Democrat-led states.

Republicans say the policy will make low-income Americans more dependent on government assistance.

Camp and Hatch told Sebelius Monday that the HHS welfare guidance constitutes a rule, making it subject to congressional approval. Government auditors endorsed this conclusion in September, finding that the welfare change falls under the Congressional Review Act.