A Quiet End to the Welfare Controversy

The controversy over the welfare waiver rule issued by the Health and Human Services Department last year came to a quiet end this week, with House Republicans passing a bill to block the rule and the White House more or less shrugging in response.

The rule, which became a rallying point for the Romney campaign during last year’s presidential election, would have waived certain work requirements for states. Republicans argued that the Obama administration had overstepped its authority in issuing the rule and that it would gut the 1996 welfare reform (previous RealClearPolicy coverage of that episode can be found here).

Yesterday the Republican House passed the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act, which would have undone the HHS’ rule. The White House marked the bill’s passage by noting that the states shied away from using the waivers anyways: “Ultimately, no States formally applied for State waivers, deterred in part by inaccurate claims about what the policy involves; therefore, the limiting provision [of the House bill to block the waiver rule] would have no practical effect on any pending application. The Administration is disappointed that the bill includes this unnecessary bar to innovative welfare-to-work strategies.”

So while the GOP continues to fight the rule legislatively (Utah’s Orrin Hatch, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced two bills to stop it), they’ve already had their way on the issue, at least for now. Even if Obama was trying to gut welfare reform by waiving work requirements, he failed, because no state was willing to take him up on the offer.

Joseph Lawler is editor of RealClearPolicy. He can be reached by email or on twitter.

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