President Clinton on Saturday denounced major elements of the welfare bill approved Friday by the House of Representatives, and Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged that he would have to negotiate with Clinton on the legislation.
Indeed, the bill, which would make the most profound changes in welfare programs since the New Deal, faces serious obstacles in the Senate.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, denounced the bill as “a Draconian measure.”
But Republican senators appear ready to accept the House proposal to establish block grants to the states in place of the main cash welfare program created in the New Deal.
The program, Aid to Families With Dependent Children, is now an entitlement for anyone who meets the eligibility criteria set by federal and state laws.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, Clinton declared, “The House bill would actually make it harder for many people to get off and stay off welfare. And the bill doesn’t really do anything to promote work. Indeed, it removes any real responsibility for states to help people gain the training and skills they need to get and keep jobs. It even cuts child care for working people struggling to hold down jobs and stay off welfare.”
Still, Clinton did not threaten a veto.
Administration officials said there was no point in making such a threat because they assumed the bill would be substantially modified in the Senate.
In any event, they said, Clinton wants to be able to fulfill his 1992 campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it” and to “scrap the current welfare system.”
Gingrich acknowledged that Clinton would have a say even though Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.
“I think we’re going to have to negotiate with President Clinton on welfare reform,” Gingrich said on CNN’s “Larry King Live”.
“But I believe, as a former governor, that he knows that it’s going to be a good thing to have 50 experiments.
“Frankly, as he said himself, no political figure in America has spent more time on welfare than President Clinton. I just believe, when he thinks about the lives that are being destroyed in the current system, he is going to want to give those governors, who he used to serve with, a chance to see if they can’t do a lot better job.”
Gingrich predicted that the Senate bill would differ in many details but would be “broadly the same” as the House bill.
The House bill would give the states control of social welfare programs serving more than 40 million Americans.
It would cut projected federal spending by $69 billion in the next five years. That represents 6 percent to 11 percent of the programs’ cost, depending on how the calculation is made.
The Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for most welfare legislation, is holding hearings on the issue.
A Senate Democratic aide said the committee would probably start from scratch and would probably not begin with the House bill.
The House bill “has no momentum in the Senate,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.
Senators and their aides said Saturday that the Senate was likely to require the states to continue spending their own money as a precondition of getting federal aid.