President Clinton voiced support for a Senate welfare overhaul plan sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole on Saturday, saying it puts the nation “within striking distance” of true welfare reform.
Although the measure contains some elements he has resisted in the past, Clinton pronounced it far preferable to a more restrictive welfare bill that passed the House last March.
Clinton used his weekly seven-minute radio address to praise the Senate for “wisdom and courage” in a series of votes last week that he said made the legislation more acceptable.
Meanwhile, Dole predicted passage of the measure with bipartisan support on Tuesday.
The GOP leader, teaming up with House Speaker Newt Gingrich for the GOP radio response, called the bill “historic legislation to truly end welfare as a way of life” and said it would “dramatically overhaul 60 years of failed welfare policy.”
“Once the Senate passes our plan … we will get together and we’ll resolve the few the differences there are, and I hope President Clinton will then sign the bill,” Dole said.
Despite Dole’s characterization of the differences between House and Senate versions as few, they were large enough to draw a threatened veto on the House version.
Deputy press secretary Mary Ellen Glynn said Saturday that veto threat still stood.
The president’s support for the Dole legislation came reluctantly and only in the context of the harsher provisions of the House legislation.
“We’re on the verge of coming to grips with one of the most fundamental social problems of our time - moving people from welfare to work,” Clinton said. “Now we must finish the job and we can’t let ideological extremism and politics as usual get in the way. Make no mistake: If Congress walks away from this bipartisan progress, they will kill welfare reform.”
Dole’s bill sends federal welfare, job training and child care programs to the states in block grants, curbs spending by $70 billion, and ends Aid to Families with Dependent Children and the guarantee of cash assistance.
Making it more palatable to the administration were votes in the Senate to set aside $8 billion for child care for single mothers on welfare who would be required to work and to establish a $1 billion emergency grant fund for states.