Orrin Hatch introduces bill to block Obama power grab

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a bill Wednesday to block President Obama’s controversial changes to work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families law.

Sen. Hatch introduced his bill, the Preserving Work Requirement for Welfare Programs Act, on the Senate floor by saying, “This bill halts last week’s unprecedented power grab from the Obama administration whereby unelected bureaucrats unilaterally granted themselves the authority to waive federal welfare work requirements … to put this another way, unelected bureaucrats ignored the law passed by Congress, the elected representatives of the American people.”

Last week, Republicans charge, the Obama administration stripped the teeth out of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families law when the Department of Health and Human Services sent new guidelines to states about TANF, including information on waivers for the work requirement, a cornerstone of the 1996 law signed by President Clinton.

According to the HSS memorandum though, the waivers are “to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.”

George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families feels waivers like these are essential, saying in a statement that “Federal rules dictate mind-numbing details about how to run a welfare-to-work program. Most states and experts agree that these aren’t helpful.”

But, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, saw it differently when he wrote in a statement last week following the announcement that “President Obama just tore up a basic foundation of the welfare contract.” Rep. Jordan went further saying, ???By waiving the law’s requirements, President Obama will make it harder for Americans to escape poverty. He is hurting the very people he claims to help.???

According to Hatch, the bill will have a companion measure introduced in the House by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) in the coming days.

Both bills are to include provisions prohibiting HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from implementing the guidelines outlined in the memo dated July 12, 2012, as well as rescind any waivers already being processed, according to a joint statement released shortly after the bills were introduced.

“Gutting welfare work requirements with the stroke of a pen and without congressional input is simply unacceptable and cannot be allowed to stand,” said Hatch.

The Senate version has been cosponsored by the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as well as Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) — all members of the Finance Committee.

The House version of the legislation has been cosponsored by Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.), the Chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee.