Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah on Wednesday blasted the fact-checkers who claimed the GOP was wrong to accuse President Barack Obama of undermining welfare reform.
“Now, before the legion of purportedly objective Fact Checkers begin Fact Checking me, let me just say that my hope here today is to turn the tables a bit,” Hatch said during a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, which first claimed Obama was undermining the welfare program. “Somebody needs to be Fact Checking the Fact Checkers. Fair is fair. What goes around, comes around. A number of self-proclaimed Fact Checkers have criticized Republicans for concluding that this new waiver authority undermines welfare reform.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in July that it was seeking to provide states with more flexibility to administer the Temporary Assistant for Needy Families (TANF) program. George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, said the law contained “mind-numbing details about how to run a welfare-to-work program” and offered to waive some of those federal regulations.
Republicans have claimed that the Obama administration was seeking to roll back the work requirements in the law, a claim that multiple fact checkers have said is false.
The waivers, which have been requested by the Republican governors of Utah and Nevada, would only allow states to test pilot programs designed to improve employment outcomes in the welfare program. As an example, Sheldon said that states could “coordinate employment programs for low-income parents funded by Department of Health and Human Services with workforce training programs funded by the federal Department of Labor.”
But Hatch claimed that the Obama administration was actually trying to make it so those who receive TANF benefits could fulfill their work requirements through bed rest and journaling. He noted that a Government Accountability Office report from 2005 found “states were counting as work such activities as massage, motivational reading, and weight loss promotion.”
A provision in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 limited the types of activities that could be considered as work. As a senator, Obama voted against the bill, which also cut $26.1 billion from Medicaid.
“It seems fair to assume that when President Obama talks today about promoting state flexibility, he is really talking about restoring some of the activities such as bed rest and journaling that he believed were inappropriately denied to the states through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005,” Hatch said. “Now, I’m no Fact Checker myself. But if I was, that might be some interesting background material that could be used in interpreting the intent of his administration’s new policy.”
“Governor Romney’s campaign has said that they are not going to let their strategies and message be determined by fact checkers,” he added. “Based on what I have seen from these so-called Fact Checkers over the past few months, that makes sense to me.”
A study published in the September issue of Children and Youth Services Review found the 1996 welfare reform law that implemented the work requirements made extremely poor Americans worse off, while helping the near poor.
Watch video, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation, below: