House to vote on bill to prevent welfare waivers

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is taking up a politically charged bill that would block the Obama administration from waiving any work requirements in the 1996 welfare reform law.

House Republicans are using the bill to renew a political fight that started during the presidential campaign. They say President Barack Obama is trying to gut work requirements in the law — a claim that is disputed by administration officials.

The bill also authorizes funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program through the end of the year at current funding levels. Without an extension, funding for the TANF program would run out March 27.

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill today. Democrats who control the Senate are expected to oppose the waiver provision. However, the Senate is expected to take up a bill that continues funding for the TANF program, potentially setting up a showdown over the issue.

Last summer, the Obama administration announced it would be willing to grant states waivers of some of the law’s requirements but only if governors can show they can accomplish the same welfare-to-work goals using different methods.

No state applied for a waiver. The White House said they were “deterred in part by inaccurate claims about what the policy involves.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seized on the issue during the campaign, accusing Obama of gutting welfare reform.

Democrats claim that Republicans are distorting the goal of the waivers. The administration said the waiver program was a response to concerns from state officials that the law’s work requirements created bureaucratic hurdles to placing welfare recipients in jobs.

The 1996 welfare act created the TANF program, provided states with block grants to carry out welfare reform, limited how long families may receive cash benefits and required that 50 percent of families receiving benefits be participating in work activities.

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