With welfare reform nearing a showdown House vote, President Clinton escalated his campaign Saturday for tougher child-support penalties that would yank the driving and professional licenses of deadbeat parents.
Clinton, in his weekly radio address, urged House Republicans who already have borrowed heavily from the administration’s childsupport proposals to go a step further and adopt a license-revocation provisions.
“Join us to send deadbeat parents all across this country a loud signal: If you neglect your responsibility to support your children, we’ll suspend your license, garnish your pay, track you down, and make you pay,” Clinton said.
The full House is expected to vote this week on Republican legislation that would overhaul the nation’s welfare system and strengthen child support enforcement. The Ways and Means Committee, which drafted a large part of the bill, refused to include a requirement that states revoke licenses.
In response to Clinton’s address, Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio said the GOP plan gives states the flexibility they need to fix “a failed system of despair.” He did not directly address the license-revocation issue. Lawmakers who opposed the provision have argued against imposing Washington’s will on the states.
Donna Shalala, secretary of Health and Human Services, said a national standard was needed to crack down on the deadbeat parents because “no state is able to do it alone.”
“We need a combination of a national system and beefing up state systems to make sure we collect every dollar,” she said.
The administration estimates that a national license-revocation program would raise $2.5 billion in child support payments over 10 years and reduce federal welfare payments by $400 million. Combined with the child-support provisions already in the GOP bill, the government could increase payments to children by $24 billion and reduce welfare costs by $4 billion over the same period, officials estimated.
Clinton invited a handful of parents whose former spouses have refused to pay courtordered child support to join him at the White House as he taped the radio address Friday.
Nineteen states use the threat of license revocation to collect child support, and many include driver’s licenses as well as licenses for doctors, lawyers and real estate agents.