Former President Bill Clinton waded into the Obama-Romney fray on welfare Tuesday, defending the current office holder against a "disappointing" attack ad from the the former Massachusetts governor.
"Gov. Romney released an ad today alleging that the Obama administration had weakened the work requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. That is not true," Clinton said in a statement from his office at the Clinton Foundation released on Tuesday.
The attack ad released Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate accused Obama of "gutting" welfare as we know it by allowing states to have more flexibility in administering their "welfare-to-work" programs.
The original Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs were signed into law under then President Clinton in 1996 and required welfare recipients to undertake mandatory work training.
The shift in TANF policy introduced by Obama in mid-July is aimed at reducing red tape, excess paperwork and unneeded prerequisites to getting back in the job market, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.
Clinton echoed this statement Tuesday, adding, "the administration has taken important steps to ensure that the work requirement is retained and that waivers will be granted only if a state can demonstrate that more people will be moved into work under its new approach."
"The welfare time limits, another important feature of the 1996 act, will not be waived," Clinton said, again highlighting a point Carney made earlier in the day that Romney once supported such a shift in TANF policy.
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.
But Romney Spokesman fought back against the Clinton statement, saying "President Obama was a vocal opponent of the innovative, bipartisan welfare reforms that President Clinton and a Republican Congress passed in 1996."
"His administration has now undermined the central premise of those reforms by gutting the welfare-to-work requirement. Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney has a record of fighting to strengthen work requirements."
"As somebody who covered in detail the passage of welfare reform under President Clinton, there is no more credible spokesman on this issue than former President Clinton," Carney told reporters Wednesday while en route to Colorado.
"I would note not only his assessment that this ad by the Romney campaign, as a matter of policy, is categorically false and blatantly dishonest, but I would also note that two of the architects of welfare reform within the Clinton administration - Bruce Reed and Gene Sperling - work for President Obama."
Both men will most likely address the issues in upcoming campaign stops today in Colorado and Iowa.
by RTT Staff Writer
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