- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

A House committee yesterday rejected a flurry of Democratic attempts to alter a welfare reform bill, but Democrats warned that their issues will be revisited in a more-sympathetic Senate.
The House Education and the Workforce Committee will resume work on its welfare bill this morning, with passage expected today.
This afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to take up its own welfare reform bill.
The Education and the Workforce Committee bill, which closely resembles a proposal issued earlier this year by the Bush administration, "builds on the success" of the 1996 welfare law, Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican and committee chairman, said at the opening of yesterday's daylong deliberations.
Democratic members decried the Republican bill Rep. Tim Roemer, Indiana Democrat, said it was a switch "from tough love to sticks and sanctions" and offered more than 30 amendments. Most were rejected.
Child care was a frequent point of debate. The Republican bill, which originally did not increase discretionary child care funds, was amended in a proposal by Rep. Michael N. Castle, Delaware Republican, to boost child care funding from $1 billion a year to $2.3 billion for fiscal 2003 and "such sums as may be necessary" for subsequent years. The Castle amendment also increased the amount of child care funds that must be used for developing "quality" child care from 4 percent to 6 percent.
Rep. George Miller, California Democrat and ranking minority member, said that, given the vast need for more child care funds, Mr. Castle's proposal was "simply inadequate."
"Why don't we just bite the bullet and do it right?" Mr. Miller asked, before introducing a bill to boost child care funding to $8 billion a year, with 12 percent set aside for quality child care.
Mr. Miller's amendment was defeated; however, he and other Democrats said their positions will be welcomed with open arms in the Democrat-led Senate.
Said Rep. Ron Kind, Wisconsin Democrat: "At the end of the day, we will probably be looking at a number [for child care funding] that is closer to the Miller number."
Committee members from both parties, working in conjunction with Bush administration officials in the room, agreed to add a new goal to welfare reform that includes poverty reduction, a Democratic goal. Under the new language, another purpose of welfare reform will be to "end dependence of needy parents on government benefits, reduce poverty and help achieve long-term income security by promoting job preparation and work."
The Republican-led bill expands work rules for welfare parents, requiring them to work 24 hours a week and spend 16 hours a week in productive activities such as education, training, counseling, community service and organized activities with their children. This is five to 10 hours of activities a week more than is currently required.
The bill creates two new provisions a $100 million annual "employment bonus" to reward states that move welfare recipients into work and a "superwaiver" states can use to change federal rules in certain education and labor programs related to welfare reform.


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