December 22, 1995 in Nation/World

Lawmakers Ok Welfare Reform Bill Clinton Promises Veto, Insists They Try Again

Jill Zuckman Boston Globe

The House approved a sweeping reorganization of the nation’s welfare programs Thursday which would turn most responsibilities over to the states and impose restrictions on who can receive benefits. But President Clinton said explicitly for the first time that he would veto it.

By a vote of 245-178, the House approved a conference report drawn up by House and Senate negotiators that would replace several federal poverty programs, entitling people to cash assistance, with block grants to the states to design their own programs. It also would reduce welfare spending by $58 billion over seven years.

“I will veto it and insist that they try again,” Clinton said of the legislation. “This welfare bill includes deep cuts that are tough on children and at odds with my central goal of moving people from welfare to work.”

Clinton said he wants to sign a welfare overhaul bill, but he described the House-Senate compromise measure “as cover to advance a budget plan that is at odds with America’s values.”

The conference report also must receive approval from the Senate before it can go to the White House to be vetoed. But the Senate’s stamp is not assured as many senators are worried that the measure cuts too deeply into spending.

Republicans on the House floor taunted the president Thursday for failing “to end welfare as we know it” - a key promise he made during his 1992 campaign.

“We are here today trying to help the president keep the commitment he made when he was a candidate,” said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif.

Republicans pronounced the current system of government assistance - usually provided through Families with Dependent Children, food stamps and the Women, Infants and Children program - out of control and unacceptable, resulting in a perpetual cycle of dependency upon the government. They said they wanted to provide states with the latitude to come up with creative solutions to poverty and welfare with no strings attached.

“I have heard the hysterical cries from my liberal friends that we are starving children, that we are being cruel and that we are hurting the poor,” said Rep. Bill Archer, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which wrote much of the bill. “I must say that these statements are carbon copies of the attacks made on Gov. John Engler” of Michigan “and other Republican governors when they boldly moved to reform their states’ welfare systems.”

And Rep. Marge Roukema, a New Jersey Republican, vowed that the Democrats’ predictions would not come true: “We will not let innocent children go hungry and homeless.”

But Democrats were disbelieving. They said the overhaul would hurt poor children and would not help their mothers move into the work force.

“This welfare bill, if it passes, will bring a whole new meaning to the phrase, suffer the little children,” said Rep. Patricia Schroeder, a Democrat from Colorado.

The measure makes numerous changes to the current welfare system. It would:

Require adults who receive cash benefits to work or attend school and limit their benefits to a maximum of five years.

Permit states to deny cash benefits to minors who bear children out of wedlock until the mother turns 18.

Permit states to deny additional benefits to parents who have another child while the family is on welfare.

Require parents to establish paternity before receiving cash benefits on behalf of a child.

Cap the growth of spending on food stamps and require adult recipients to work at least part time.

Make most legal aliens ineligible for non-emergency assistance.

Deny Supplemental Security Income benefits to drug addicts and alcoholics who receive disability benefits as a result of their addiction and cut by 25 percent the SSI payments to families with children who are severely, physically disabled.

Establish a nationwide tracking system for enforcing child-support payments.

Only four Republicans voted against the welfare conference report, and 17 Democrats voted for it.

xxxx HOW THEY VOTED Here’s how Northwest lawmakers voted on a bill to overhaul the welfare system. A “yes” vote is a vote to approve the bill.

Idaho Republicans - Helen Chenoweth and Mike Crapo, yes.

Washington Republicans - Jennifer Dunn, Doc Hastings, Jack Metcalf, George Nethercutt, Linda Smith, Randy Tate and Rick White, yes. Democrats - Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott, no.

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