- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2002

President Bush yesterday said welfare legislation supported by Senate Democrats has "so many exceptions, so many loopholes" that fewer recipients would be forced to make the transition into full-time work.

One loophole in the Senate bill would let welfare recipients count college classes toward their work requirements.

"Under the way they're kind of writing it right now out of the Senate Finance Committee, some people could spend their entire five years there's a five-year work requirement on welfare going to college," Mr. Bush said in a speech at West Ashley High School in Charleston, S.C.

"Now, that's not my view of helping people become independent. And it's certainly not my view of understanding the importance of work and helping people achieve the dignity necessary so they can live a free life, free from government control," the president said.

The House in May passed a bill to reauthorize the landmark 1996 welfare-overhaul law scheduled to expire Sept. 30. The House bill would require most welfare recipients to work 40 hours a week to continue receiving government checks. The 1996 law, which cut welfare rolls in half, required 30 hours of work.

The Senate is considering a different version, written by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, which would allow recipients to count education and training as work.

"There are so many exceptions, so many loopholes, so many ways out of holding people to high standards that fewer people would actually be moving from welfare to work," Mr. Bush said. "I believe the bill is a retreat from the success. I believe they're not moving forward."

The Baucus committee's bill maintains the current requirement for a 30-hour week of work, training and related activities, although it raises the number of hours devoted to work to 24 hours from 20. Women with children younger than 6 have fewer requirements.

The House bill incorporates the Bush administration's plan for a 40-hour week, with 24 hours of work and 16 of training or other work-related activities.

Both the House and Senate versions keep current funding levels of $16.5 billion a year in block grants to states, but the Senate puts more into child care and allows states to restore welfare and some health care benefits to legal immigrants.

Mr. Bush also criticized Democrats for bloating the bill with funding for child care programs. The Senate version proposes spending $5.5 billion to help working parents pay for child care, $1.8 billion more than the House version and $1 billion more than the current law.

"They're saying we got to spend a bunch more money in order to make us feel better and to make things work better. We don't need that," he said.

Even though the Senate bill adds money, it does not produce as much cash as Mr. Bush wants for programs promoting marriage and abstinence.

"In order to help people help themselves, I strongly believe that we must encourage teen abstinence programs. We've got to help people understand that, one, it's OK to abstain. And secondly, having a baby out of wedlock early in life, it's going to make it awfully tough, awfully tough on the child, awfully tough on the mom," Mr. Bush said.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, voted against the Baucus bill in committee because he said it did not contain enough child care money. He said the bill should be ready for a vote by fall.

Yesterday, Mr. Daschle said Mr. Bush's speech lacked the compassion he so often championed.

"We hope that the harsh tone of the president's remarks today doesn't mean he has decided to give up on passing welfare reform this year. That would be unfortunate, because we need to move forward, and there's a good plan within reach," the Senate majority leader said in a statement.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide