While the Obama campaign goes all out attacking Mitt Romney’s business history, the Romney campaign is looking carefully at a new Obama administration policy that could become a significant part of Romney’s case against the president. In a quiet move Thursday — barely noted beyond the conservative press — the Obama administration “released an official policy directive rewriting the welfare reform law of 1996,” according to Robert Rector, a welfare policy expert at the Heritage Foundation.
The directive — which some Romney aides found stunning — allows the Department of Health and Human Services to waive the work requirement at the heart of welfare reform. That reform, originally vetoed but later signed into law by President Bill Clinton, is widely viewed as the most successful policy initiative in a generation. Under it, the growth in welfare rolls was reversed and millions of people moved from welfare to work.
Despite its success, however, many liberals remain opposed to reform. For example, in the years immediately after passage of the law, Barack Obama himself pledged to do all he could to undo it. Now, he has.
The administration’s action means “the end of welfare reform as we know it,” in Rector’s words. In coming days, look for the Romney campaign to press that case — showcasing what Obama has done in office, even as the president fixates on an imaginary narrative of what happened at Bain Capital years ago.
Friday morning, with Obama’s action still largely unreported, Romney released a statement calling Obama’s move “completely misdirected.”
“President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare,” Romney said. “The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work. The president’s action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.”