February 10, 1995 in Nation/World

Gop Unveils Welfare Plan The Proposal Shrinks The Federal Safety Net And Transfers Both New Powers And Problems To The States

From Wire Reports

Vowing to end “cashinducements to teenagers who have children they know they cannot afford to raise,” House Republicans proposed Thursday to turn welfare over to the states and end the New Deal guarantee that anyone who qualifies can collect benefits.

The sweeping legislation also would require welfare recipients to work, end cash payments to the “able-bodied” after five years, deny welfare to most legal immigrants, increase efforts to find “deadbeat dads” who don’t support their children, end disability payments to drug addicts and alcoholics and tighten eligibility criteria for the children’s disability program.

The plan abandons the traditional “entitlement” concept that for half a century has guaranteed benefits to anyone who meets the eligibility requirements, regardless of the cost to the government.

Instead, the GOP favors consolidating 50 existing welfare programs into three block grants to the states, which would be able to set many of the rules under which the funds are expended and benefits are awarded.

In addition, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the program that provides cash to poor women and their children, would be capped for the next five years at the 1994 level, a year when the federal government spent more than $12 billion. The states spent more than $10 billion.

The Republicans’ “Contract With America” also proposed capping spending on Supplemental Security Income, a welfare plan for the blind, aged and disabled that now costs nearly $28 billion a year, and on housing assistance.

Rep. E. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., who unveiled the Republican plan Thursday in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, did not specifically reaffirm the GOP promise to limit spending on SSI and housing assistance and his aides did not return phone calls. On most other counts the plan, as he described it, is similar to the “Contract With America.”

Shaw is chairman of a House Ways and Means subcommittee that will begin work on the plan Monday.

Despite rising sentiment that welfare needs reform, it is expected to provoke a bitter fight.

“This proposal takes a troubled welfare system and makes it vastly worse,” said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the generally liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington.

“This is probably the harshest bill ever devised by the leadership of either party,” Greenstein said. “It would deny cash assistance to millions of children whose mothers want to work, but can’t find jobs …”

Already Thursday, conservative Democrats were unveiling a competing plan that would not cut off benefits to teenage mothers but would impose stricter work requirements. Liberals led by House Minority Leader Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri scheduled a press conference today to offer a third plan.

Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., the senior Democrat on the Shaw subcommittee, criticized the Republican plan for not going far enough to require work, for not providing jobs for those who want to work and for kicking people off the rolls after five years, even if they comply with all the rules.

And, he added, “It punishes poor children who didn’t ask to be born into this situation.”

Democrats will fight the measure section-by-section next week, said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., but conceded that Republicans will prevail in the subcommittee. Democrats hope subcommittee action will generate enough public reaction that Republicans will be forced to accept changes in the bill when it is taken up by the full committee in late February or early March, and when it reaches the House floor later in March.


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