- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

House Republicans will highlight the success of abstinence education as they begin their drive to approve President Bush's proposed welfare reform, Majority Whip Tom DeLay said yesterday.
Mr. DeLay, in an interview with The Washington Times, said he expects Democratic opponents of welfare reform to focus their attacks on the president's proposal for a 33 percent increase in abstinence-education funding.
"The Democrats could really come out swinging, particularly if the outside groups on the left like Planned Parenthood and [the National Association for Women] and some of these really way-out, extremist groups get fired up," said Mr. DeLay, Texas Republican.
He said the GOP plans to counter that opposition by holding hearings to showcase the testimony of girls and young women who believe abstinence until marriage is an effective way to break the cycle of poverty and welfare. Mr. DeLay, in particular, mentioned the D.C.-based Best Friends program founded by Elayne Bennett, wife of former Education Secretary William J. Bennett.
"We're going to have to work hard to focus people's attention on abstinence training," Mr. DeLay said. "Actually I think it's going to be difficult to get what the president has proposed. We're going to counter [the opposition] with success stories."
Mr. Bush in February proposed revamping the 1996 welfare reform law by increasing the work requirements for recipients, rewarding couples with extra money for getting married, and boosting the funding for abstinence education to $135 million per year.
Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has called Mr. Bush's proposal to increase abstinence-education funding an "irresponsible and dangerous policy" that "wastes critical resources in areas that are unproven and lacking any scientific basis."
Several House committees are reviewing the proposals, and Mr. DeLay said he anticipates the full House to approve the overall welfare reauthorization in mid-May. But he said Republican leaders are having a "hard time" with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid provisions, because some Republicans are resisting the abstinence proposal.
"We're having frankly some trouble with some Republicans" on the panel, Mr. DeLay said, declining to name them. Rep. James C. Greenwood, Pennsylvania Republican and a senior member of the committee, wrote a letter to Mr. Bush with leading pro-choice Democrats in February calling the proposed increase in abstinence-only education "dangerous and unnecessary."
Mr. DeLay visited a work force center in Houston yesterday to highlight Republican support for the proposed welfare reforms. House Republicans believe the legislation provides one of the clearest examples of how they differ with Democrats in this election year, in which the GOP is trying to expand its six-vote majority.
"The [Republican] base is very much zeroed in on the pro-family, abstinence part," Mr. DeLay said. "I hesitate to call it their Number One issue … but it is big. They're watching what we're doing. And they're going to put a lot of resources behind it."


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