Reversing a stance he held while Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney and his campaign team Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama's recent initiative to allow states more flexibility in administering their welfare-to-work programs.
In a new attack ad released Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate accuses Obama of "gutting" welfare as we know it.
"Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check," the ad voiceover states. "And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare."
The shift in welfare policy introduced by the Obama administration in mid-July allows states to experiment with the administration of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which was signed into law under 1996 by President Bill Clinton.
The TANF was seen as a major victory for Republicans critical of former welfare policies that did not require simultaneous work training.
However, the Obama administration claims the changes introduced are aimed at reducing red tape, excess paperwork and unneeded prerequisites to getting back in the job market.
Calling the ad's statements "hypocritical criticism," White House Spokesman Jay Carney said, "The changes proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services are designed to accelerate job placement by moving more Americans from welfare to work as quickly as possible."
"There will be no waivers of the time limits in the law, and only waivers with compelling plans to move more people off of welfare and into work will be considered," Carney said during a press briefing on Monday. "This policy will allow states to test new, more effective ways to help people get and keep a job."
Carney also called attention to the fact that Romney, as Governor of Massachusetts, supported just such a change to TANF's flexibility. In 2005, Romney and 29 other governors sent a letter to then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist requesting more flexibility in administering their welfare-to-work programs.
GOP stalwarts Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also signed the letter.
"Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work," the letter stated, seemingly echoing the provisions found in the Obama proposal.
Responding to Carney's statement, Romney Policy Director Lanhee Chen failed to mention the letter, saying only that Romney fought for tougher work requirements for welfare recipients in Massachusetts.
When asked if he thought Romney was a "flip-flopper," a term that came to define and destroy Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's bid in 2004, Carney only said, "I'm suggesting that everyone I named by name in the past supported these kinds of waivers."
"I am also making clear that this administration in no way supports any effort to undermine the work requirements that were fundamental to the Welfare Reform Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996," he added.
by RTT Staff Writer
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