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John C.
Democrat MI 13

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  • Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and Tanf Extension Act of 2013

    by Representative John Conyers Jr.

    Posted on 2013-03-13

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    CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 890. I urge members of both parties to oppose this legislation, which in only a few pages demonstrates all that is wrong with Washington--politicians putting partisan concerns ahead of constructive policy. Governors from several states have overcome partisan differences to support the waivers H.R. 890 wishes to eliminate. Let us follow their lead and defeat this legislation together.



    H.R. 890 is a simplistic bill. It prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services from giving effect to the July 2012 guidance that granted states waivers regarding the design of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs. It also prohibits further experimentation, banning pilot programs or demonstration programs that could potentially revolutionize TANF, making it more effective and less costly. Though these changes seem small, they can mean a world of difference for families in need of the training and educational opportunities that new approaches to TANF could provide.

    Mr. Speaker, this legislation is one of the most remarkable pieces of work that I have ever seen considered on this floor. Not because it is such a bad piece of policy. Not because of how abominably it misrepresents the current state of federal and state practices. Not even because we are still litigating a claim which was dreamed up by a failed presidential campaign last summer, and which was roundly rejected by the American people.

    No, Mr. Speaker, this legislation is remarkable because my friends across the aisle are demanding that we wrest control from the states in favor of a more inflexible and inefficient approach. The claims of federalism invoked by my Republican colleagues in so many of legislative battles I have witnessed over the years are nowhere to be heard.

    Mr. Speaker, H.R. 890 is wrong--and it is wrong for all the wrong reasons.

    Despite H.R. 890's claims, the waivers granted to TANF program operators in July 2012 do not weaken TANF's work requirements--they strengthen them. These waivers provide states with the opportunity to determine what works best for them. These waivers allow states to experiment with alternative employment and training programs that reflect the varied problems confronting TANF recipients who wish to join the work force. Successful programs can then be replicated in other states and limited resources can be stretched further to ensure more effort is expended finding jobs instead of complying with red tape.

    Despite what H.R. 890 presumes, these waivers won't lead to TANF recipients laying on hammocks, but rather are the key to unlocking the potential of men and women who want their own piece of the American dream. The waivers will allow program officials to provide the training and education necessary for many beneficiaries to join the ever more competitive labor market. Further, they will allow states to tailor their programs to the specific demands of their local economies, and ensure that TANF continues to improve in its mission to see recipients become self-sufficient. This--Mr. Speaker--is what good government looks like. This--Mr. Speaker--is why Republican and Democratic governors across the nation support these waivers.

    Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my friends across the aisle to put aside partisan concerns for just this moment and vote their conscience on this matter. I want them to ask whether they can in good conscience continue to oppose these commonsense reforms simply because it plays well with the fringes of their party. I want them to consider what it will sound like next time I hear from them that the federal government is too large and should cede more authority to the states. I want them to consider what people will hear when they claim to favor state solutions to national problems. Quite simply I want them to consider their professed principles instead of partisan politics--for if they do, they cannot support H.R. 890.

    [[Page H1382]] I urge everyone, Democrat and Republican, to vote ``no'' on H.R. 890. We've litigated this long enough--lets finally put it to rest.

    Mr. DANNY K. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I must express my profound surprise by the Republican effort to undermine state flexibility to strengthen work outcomes for people who receive TANF. In contrast to prior Republican support for such TANF waivers, in contrast to longstanding Republican advocacy for greater state flexibility, and in contrast to the reality that the TANF waivers would actually accelerate job placements and dramatically improve work outcomes, the current Republican rhetoric jettisons past support for state flexibility to improve TANF outcomes and disingenuously charges the Administration with gutting welfare reform. It is in states' best interests to improve the work outcomes of their citizens, which is why Republican and Democratic governors have asked for the type of flexibility provided by the Administration's waiver.

    Under current rules, a state can meet its work requirement even if no recipient finds a job. In contrast, approved demonstration waivers explicitly would focus on improving employment outcomes. Under current rules, states spend very little of their TANF funds on work activities and substantial resources monitoring participation in activities. In contrast, approved demonstration waivers would help states make more effective and efficient use of limited resources. Under current rules, people are discouraged from getting a high school diploma or GED, even though they're more likely to find good jobs with such education. In contrast, approved demonstration waivers would allow states to focus on building a better skilled workforce.

    Under current rules, people working in subsidized jobs don't count toward the state's work rate. In contrast, Illinois boasted one of the most successful subsidized employment programs in the nation while using TANF Emergency Funds. The program directly placed almost 30,000 unemployed and underemployed adults in jobs that paid approximately $10 per hour, putting almost $9 million dollars into the pockets of hard working Illinoisans and into the economy. Almost 5000 employers in Illinois benefited.

    Why Republicans would oppose innovative programs to help the unemployed get solid jobs is simply puzzling. Rather than advancing political theatre, the Republicans should be working with Democrats to replace the across-the-board spending cuts, strengthen the middle class, create jobs, expand our economy, and responsibly bring down the deficit. It is these proactive steps at governing that my constituents seek.

    Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 890, the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Act of 2013. This legislation would overturn the Administration's proposal to allow states greater flexibility to help more Americans move from welfare to good jobs. Several states have requested this flexibility, including some states with Republican governors and legislatures. This is a politically disingenuous bill which only prevents Congress from devoting our time to finding actual solutions to lowering our unemployment rate.

    As a condition of receiving federal TANF funding, states are required to document the number of hours that welfare recipients spend in paid jobs, voluntary work, or other activities directly related to finding employment. Many states have argued that the current law's requirements are onerous and counterproductive to helping welfare recipients find work to lift their families out of poverty.

    In response to state feedback, the Administration proposed a program to allow states to use alternate, outcome-based measures for job placement, rather than relying solely on numerical work participation standards. This waiver would give states the flexibility needed to improve the effectiveness of TANF programs by focusing on the outcomes that matter to our families. The Administration's waiver program has strict requirements to hold states accountable for making measurable progress in job placement.

    I urge my colleagues to oppose H.R. 890, which would hinder states' autonomy and flexibility in finding solutions that work for their residents. Instead of wasting time on partisan proposals, we must work across the aisle to find real solutions for working families in my Dallas district and across the country.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. All time for debate has expired.

    Pursuant to House Resolution 107, the previous question is ordered on the bill, as amended.

    The question is on the engrossment and third reading of the bill.

    The bill was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time, and was read the third time.

    {time} 1650 Motion to Recommit Mr. ENYART. Mr. Speaker, I have a motion to recommit at the desk.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is the gentleman opposed to the bill? Mr. ENYART. I am opposed to the bill in its current form.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Clerk will report the motion to recommit.

    The Clerk read as follows: Mr. Enyart moves to recommit the bill, H.R. 890, to the Committee on Ways and Means with instructions to report the same back to the House forthwith with the following amendment: At the end of the bill, add the following: SEC. __. PROTECTING UNEMPLOYED PARENTS, INCLUDING VETERANS, WOMEN, VICTIMS OF NATURAL DISASTERS, AND GRANDPARENTS WHO ARE RAISING THE CHILDREN OF MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

    Nothing in this Act shall prohibit or limit a State which is receiving funds under section 403 (a)(1) of the Social Security Act from providing assistance, job opportunities, or educational training authorized in this Act, for-- (1) unemployed parents, including veterans, women who are victims of domestic violence, and victims of natural disasters; or (2) grandparents caring for children who have a parent who is, or who had a parent who died while being, a member of the United States Armed Forces.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Illinois is recognized for 5 minutes in support of his motion.

    Mr. ENYART. Mr. Speaker, I haven't been in Washington very long. Like so many in southern Illinois and across our Nation, I answered the call to serve. I grew up in a household where I was taught the importance of fairness, duty, and honor. Whether it was walking the beans on my grandparents' farm or working with my father on the line at Caterpillar, I understood the importance of hard work, fair pay, and taking responsibility for myself and our family.

    When I was 19, I enlisted and arrived for duty at Scott Air Force Base, a vital component of our national security and major employer in the district I now represent. For 35 years, I served in the military. For the past 5 years, I served as the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, where I led our response to natural disasters and oversaw the largest deployment of Guard troops since World War II. Serving alongside those 13,000 soldiers and airmen and hundreds of civilian employees proved to me that the resiliency of Illinoisans, whether recovering from floods, ice storms, or earthquakes, or coming together as a community to support our service men and women overseas, is unparalleled.

    Today, I offer the final amendment to the bill. It will not delay nor kill the bill nor send it back to committee. If adopted, the bill will proceed immediately to final passage, as amended.

    From my experience as an enlisted man to that of commander of the Illinois National Guard, I'm concerned about how this bill interferes with States' rights and might unfairly affect unemployed veterans and their families, victims of domestic violence, and victims of natural disasters, as well as grandparents caring for children whose parents are deployed.

    In January, families in Sparta, a town I represent in southern Illinois, had the joy and blessing to welcome home over 150 soldiers with the Guard's 661st Engineer Company and 662nd Engineer Fire Fighting Detachment from Afghanistan. I was the commander who signed their deployment orders and sent them into harm's way. I was honored to see their safe return. For many of these men and women, their return means making a young family whole again. They could not have borne their responsibilities in Afghanistan without support from grandparents, spouses, and a community like Sparta.

    That's why I'm so alarmed by this bill in its current form. Why would Congress seek to make it more difficult for a single parent or grandparent to care for children while their mother or father is deployed overseas? Is that the message we want to send our troops, that their service is a burden to those back home? For our veterans in Sparta and across the Nation facing new, sometimes heartbreaking challenges in their transition to civilian life, know that the promises we made to them are on the line. For us in southern Illinois, I'll be blunt. We need jobs.

    Southern Illinois hasn't seen an economic recovery yet. Out of 102 counties [[Page H1383]] in Illinois, six in my district in southern Illinois are among those struggling most, with more than 20 percent of families trying to make ends meet on incomes less than $23,000 a year.

    The fact is that our heroes, our veterans returning home, don't necessarily have jobs waiting for them. That's why this bill in its current form is so out of touch with the realities that our veterans face. Instead, Congress is telling our veterans and our military families: your service isn't good enough. You haven't done enough for our Nation. Once again, Congress has gotten it wrong.

    Another example, in Illinois we don't qualify assistance for victims of domestic violence. That's why I have to ask, given the critical need for us to responsibly reduce the deficit and actually work on improving our economy, why would Congress focus on questioning the expertise and recommendations made by my State or any other? Where I come from and where I'm proud to represent, we all share the southern Illinois values of hard work, integrity, and fairness. Veterans and military families, victims of domestic abuse, communities overcoming natural disaster, like Harrisburg, Illinois, these are the good people who shouldn't be pawns of politics in Congress, and we owe them the assurance that this bill will not reduce critical assistance.

    I urge my colleagues to stand by our veterans and military families. I urge them to consider honoring our home State's authority. I ask they pass this commonsense amendment to invest in the resiliency of our communities.

    I yield back the balance of my time Mr. CAMP. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the motion.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Michigan is recognized for 5 minutes.

    Mr. CAMP. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, this is one of the most unnecessary and meaningless motions to recommit I've seen in my time in Congress. The definition of who's eligible for TANF is left to the States. So the idea that somehow this motion to recommit singles out unemployed parents, TANF applies to unemployed parents. TANF applies to people that are veterans. TANF applies to people who are grandparents. It's about getting the unemployed jobs.

    So I have to say, I'm puzzled by this. It seems totally political and completely unnecessary. None of these groups mentioned in this motion to recommit are excluded from receiving TANF benefits.

    What this is about is not weakening the work requirement. I understand why the administration may want to weaken the work requirement since their record on job creation is so atrocious. But the fact is that States have tremendous flexibility here. Half of the caseload doesn't have to meet the work requirement. They can be engaging in whatever activity or no activity the State determines. The other half has 12 different categories, including vocational training and other job readiness activities, that will qualify as work.

    This is a straight extension of current law. This is an extension of current law that has proven extremely successful. Let's not weaken the requirement. Let's extend the welfare program, the TANF program, at current levels, and let's get people back to work.

    I yield back the balance of my time.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Without objection, the previous question is ordered on the motion to recommit.

    There was no objection.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion to recommit.

    The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the noes appeared to have it.

    Mr. ENYART. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

    The yeas and nays were ordered.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 9 of rule XX, the Chair will reduce to 5 minutes the minimum time for any electronic vote on the question of passage.

    The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--yeas 199, nays 230, not voting 2, as follows: [Roll No. 67] YEAS--199 Andrews Barber Barrow (GA) Bass Beatty Becerra Bera (CA) Bishop (GA) Bishop (NY) Blumenauer Bonamici Brady (PA) Braley (IA) Brown (FL) Brownley (CA) Bustos Butterfield Capps Capuano Cardenas Carney Carson (IN) Cartwright Castor (FL) Castro (TX) Chu Cicilline Clarke Clay Cleaver Clyburn Cohen Connolly Conyers Cooper Courtney Crowley Cuellar Cummings Davis (CA) Davis, Danny DeFazio DeGette Delaney DeLauro DelBene Deutch Dingell Doggett Doyle Duckworth Edwards Ellison Engel Enyart Eshoo Esty Farr Fattah Foster Frankel (FL) Fudge Gabbard Gallego Garamendi Garcia Grayson Green, Al Green, Gene Grijalva Gutierrez Hahn Hanabusa Hastings (FL) Heck (WA) Higgins Himes Hinojosa Holt Honda Horsford Hoyer Huffman Israel Jackson Lee Jeffries Johnson (GA) Johnson, E. B.

    Jones Kaptur Keating Kennedy Kildee Kilmer Kind Kirkpatrick Kuster Langevin Larsen (WA) Larson (CT) Lee (CA) Levin Lewis Lipinski Loebsack Lofgren Lowenthal Lowey Lujan Grisham (NM) Lujan, Ben Ray (NM) Maffei Maloney, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Markey Matheson Matsui McCarthy (NY) McCollum McDermott McGovern McIntyre McNerney Meeks Meng Michaud Miller, George Moore Moran Murphy (FL) Nadler Napolitano Neal Negrete McLeod Nolan O'Rourke Owens Pallone Pascrell Pastor (AZ) Payne Pelosi Perlmutter Peters (CA) Peters (MI) Peterson Pingree (ME) Pocan Polis Price (NC) Quigley Rahall Rangel Richmond Roybal-Allard Ruiz Ruppersberger Rush Ryan (OH) Sanchez, Linda T.

    Sanchez, Loretta Sarbanes Schakowsky Schiff Schneider Schrader Schwartz Scott (VA) Scott, David Serrano Sewell (AL) Shea-Porter Sherman Sinema Sires Slaughter Smith (WA) Speier Swalwell (CA) Takano Thompson (CA) Thompson (MS) Tierney Titus Tonko Tsongas Van Hollen Vargas Veasey Vela Velazquez Visclosky Walz Wasserman Schultz Waters Watt Waxman Welch Wilson (FL) Yarmuth NAYS--230 Aderholt Alexander Amash Amodei Bachmann Bachus Barletta Barr Barton Benishek Bentivolio Bilirakis Bishop (UT) Black Blackburn Bonner Boustany Brady (TX) Bridenstine Brooks (AL) Brooks (IN) Broun (GA) Buchanan Bucshon Burgess Calvert Camp Campbell Cantor Capito Carter Cassidy Chabot Chaffetz Coble Coffman Cole Collins (GA) Collins (NY) Conaway Cook Cotton Cramer Crawford Crenshaw Culberson Daines Davis, Rodney Denham Dent DeSantis DesJarlais Diaz-Balart Duffy Duncan (SC) Duncan (TN) Ellmers Farenthold Fincher Fitzpatrick Fleischmann Fleming Flores Forbes Fortenberry Foxx Franks (AZ) Frelinghuysen Gardner Garrett Gerlach Gibbs Gibson Gingrey (GA) Gohmert Goodlatte Gosar Gowdy Granger Graves (GA) Graves (MO) Griffin (AR) Griffith (VA) Grimm Guthrie Hall Hanna Harper Harris Hartzler Hastings (WA) Heck (NV) Hensarling Herrera Beutler Holding Hudson Huelskamp Huizenga (MI) Hultgren Hunter Hurt Issa Jenkins Johnson (OH) Johnson, Sam Jordan Joyce Kelly King (IA) King (NY) Kingston Kinzinger (IL) Kline Labrador LaMalfa Lamborn Lance Lankford Latham Latta LoBiondo Long Lucas Luetkemeyer Lummis Marchant Marino Massie McCarthy (CA) McCaul McClintock McHenry McKeon McKinley McMorris Rodgers Meadows Meehan Messer Mica Miller (FL) Miller (MI) Miller, Gary Mullin Mulvaney Murphy (PA) Neugebauer Noem Nugent Nunes Nunnelee Olson Palazzo Paulsen Pearce Perry Petri Pittenger Pitts Poe (TX) Pompeo Posey Price (GA) Radel Reed Reichert Renacci Ribble Rice (SC) Rigell Roby Roe (TN) Rogers (AL) Rogers (KY) Rogers (MI) Rohrabacher Rokita Rooney Ros-Lehtinen Roskam Ross Rothfus Royce Runyan Ryan (WI) Salmon Scalise Schock Schweikert Scott, Austin Sensenbrenner Sessions Shimkus Shuster Simpson Smith (NE) Smith (NJ) Smith (TX) Southerland Stewart Stivers Stockman Stutzman Terry Thompson (PA) Thornberry Tiberi Tipton Turner Upton Valadao Wagner Walberg Walden Walorski Weber (TX) Webster (FL) Wenstrup Westmoreland Whitfield Williams Wilson (SC) Wittman Wolf Womack Woodall Yoder Yoho Young (AK) Young (FL) Young (IN) NOT VOTING--2 Costa Lynch [[Page H1384]] {time} 1735 Messrs. NUNES, JOYCE, Mrs. McMORRIS RODGERS, Messrs. CRENSHAW, CARTER, COTTON, Ms. GRANGER, Messrs. SCALISE and BURGESS changed their vote from ``yea'' to ``nay.'' Ms. ROYBAL-ALLARD, Mr. WELCH, Ms. SHEA-PORTER, Mrs. BEATTY, Mrs. DAVIS of California and Mr. COOPER changed their vote from ``nay'' to ``yea.'' So the motion to recommit was rejected.

    The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the passage of the bill.

    The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.

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