The House voted Wednesday to block the Obama administration’s attempt to waive a requirement that people must work or prepare for a job in order to receive federal welfare benefits.
In a 246-181 vote, the House approved the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act. After a partisan floor debate, the bill won the support of 18 Democrats, while three Republicans opposed the GOP bill.
The bill is a reaction to last year’s guidance from the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), which told states that the so-called welfare-work requirement can be waived.
Republicans criticized the waiver as an attempt to gut what they said was one of the most important pieces of the 1996 welfare reform law. That law turned the federal welfare program into a block grant to states under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
It also required that within each state, 50 percent of all families receiving help under TANF must be working or looking for work — states can be fined if they fail to hit that target.
House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said that reform and others “led to more work, more earnings, less welfare dependence, and less poverty among families headed by low-income single mothers.”
“Yet, without any thought of consulting Congress, as is required by law, the administration saw fit to unilaterally waive the work requirements and risk the progress that has been made in the last 16 years,” Camp said. “Simply put, this bill would block waivers, so HHS cannot allow States to bypass the work requirements and financial penalties Congress put in place in 1996 for failing to engage welfare recipients in work.”