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James M.
Democrat MA 2

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  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 890, Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and Tanf Extension Act of 2013

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2013-03-13

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    McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Cole) for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    (Mr. McGOVERN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. McGOVERN. First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would tell my colleagues that this is not a good rule. It is a closed rule, and there's no need for it.

    This prevents Members of the House of both parties from coming to the floor with ideas or ways to amend this legislation. Because of the rule, they're prevented from doing so. I think that is an unfortunate fact. We should have deliberation on this House floor. Given the fact that we're not doing much of anything, we certainly have the time to deliberate, and I would hope that in the future that we would see more flexibility on the rules and less closed rules. So I urge my colleagues to vote against the rule because of that.

    Mr. Speaker, once again the Republican majority in the House is proving that they never let facts get in the way of a good press release.

    Today's bill takes a sensible, bipartisan piece of legislation and tacks on a partisan political ploy that was used in the last Congress to try to embarrass President Obama.

    Instead of bringing a simple, clean extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the Republican majority is continuing a political attack from the last election. And like many of the other political attacks lobbed against President Obama in that campaign, this attack is simply untrue and destined for failure.

    Over the last 2 years, members of the majority have charged that actions taken by the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the TANF program are an attempt to ``let people sit at home and collect welfare checks.'' Such charges have been declared false by numerous fact check organizations, including Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, and The Fact Checker at The Washington Post.

    Furthermore, Ron Haskins, the former Republican staff director of the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee and one of the chief architects of the 1996 welfare reform law, said the reforms similar to the ones being made by HHS are justified. And he added: I do not think it ends welfare reform or strongly undermines welfare reform. Each State has to say what they will do and how that reform will either increase employment or lead to better employment.

    That's Ron Haskins, the former Republican staff director of the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee.

    Mr. Speaker, the merits of the changes implemented by HHS strengthen Federal efforts to move Americans from welfare to work. In allowing States the flexibility from rigid TANF requirements, the administration requires that any changes provide a more efficient or effective means to promote employment. In explaining the policy changes, HHS Secretary Sebelius stated: Governors must commit that their proposals will move at least 20 percent more people from welfare to work compared to the State's past performance.

    Under such requirements, it is impossible to assert that these changes will weaken the Federal efforts to move citizens from welfare to work. In fact, in looking at the actual rules even briefly, it is clear that these changes strengthen our Federal efforts by allowing for more effective and more efficient programs by giving them room to operate at the State level.

    Mr. Speaker, it may be surprising to some watching today's proceedings that the majority disapproves of the administration's programmatic changes. The underlying principle of the changes is the belief that States should have flexibility to implement proven and effective methods for moving Americans from welfare to work.

    Yet today, a Republican majority that often boasts of its commitment to States' rights now stands in fierce opposition to that very principle. They find themselves demanding that even when more effective methods for putting Americans to work are available, Federal standards dictated from Washington must rule the day.

    [[Page H1367]] And the real irony in their argument against the administration's action is that the request for flexibility came from a Governor, a Republican Governor. And it was not just a Republican Governor from a blue State like New Jersey or a purple State like Virginia. No, Mr. Speaker, the Governor of Utah--one of the reddest States in the Nation--is the one that has requested this waiver.

    I've seen some interesting legislative jujitsu on this House floor. One day they're adhering to the Hastert rule, and the next day the Boehner rule applies. This Republican majority legislates by lurching from one issue to another issue trying to find something that works.

    So I can't say that I'm surprised that they're declaring themselves against increasing work requirements for TANF recipients as requested by a Republican Governor. The only thing I can chalk it up to is politics. You'd think that at some point the Republican majority would rather legislate instead of fighting a political battle that was decided 4 months ago, a political battle that they lost badly. Sadly, that day is not today.

    If this majority were truly serious about work and employment, about actually reducing the number of people on TANF, then we would be voting on a bill to repeal the sequester and we would be voting on a bill to save the 750,000 jobs that will be lost this year because of these arbitrary, mindless, senseless, and thoughtless cuts.

    The reauthorization of TANF in and of itself is not controversial. We can move that bill on suspension. What appears to be controversial to this Republican leadership is putting people back to work. What appears to be controversial to this Republican leadership is saving our economy from the devastating sequester cuts. What appears to be controversial to this Republican leadership is responsible governing.

    In contrast, Mr. Speaker, House Democrats have a plan that House Republicans block time after time after time to avoid sequester.

    Congressman Van Hollen has a balanced sequester replacement, one that will get rid of the arbitrary cuts and replace them with a balanced mix of cuts and revenues, revenues that come from closing tax loopholes that even Republicans like Mitt Romney thought we should eliminate.

    Congressman Van Hollen has come to the Rules Committee four times this year alone in the hope that this Republican leadership, the ones who promised an open House and an open legislative process, would make his amendment in order. And four times now, the Republican leadership in this House has refused to make that amendment in order.

    {time} 1230 Why, Mr. Speaker? Why? Why not allow the Van Hollen sequester replacement bill to come to the floor for a vote? Didn't Speaker Boehner promise a more open House? Didn't he say that the House should work its will? Mr. Speaker, this is not a way to run a democracy. This is not an open and fair process.

    That's because this Republican leadership is not about openness. They're not about legislating responsibly. They're about desperate attempts to score cheap political points. That's what they're doing with the sequester. And that's what they're doing with this TANF reauthorization--something that should be totally noncontroversial, something that should be approved with an overwhelming bipartisan vote.

    Mr. Speaker, we should defeat this closed rule, an unnecessarily closed rule, and defeat this bill. It is time we put partisan politics aside, at least until the next election season begins, and start working for the American people.

    With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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