As promised, President Clinton on Tuesday vetoed the sweeping GOP plan to overhaul the welfare system, thwarting Republican efforts to dismantle the 60-year-old federal safety net for poor families and shift responsibility for new programs to the states.
The veto was politically risky for Clinton, given that the GOP initiative has broad public support and that he campaigned on the pledge to “end welfare as we know it.”
But Clinton argued that the GOP blueprint for changing the system would be too tough on children in many ways, including cutting funds for disabled children and not providing enough money for child care for children whose parents take jobs because of the reform.
“The Congress should not use the words ‘welfare reform’ as a cover to violate the nation’s values,” Clinton said in his veto statement Tuesday night. “We must demand responsibility from young mothers and young fathers, not penalize children for their parents’ mistakes.”
After the veto, Republicans criticized Clinton and asked him to produce his own detailed welfare reform plan.
“By vetoing welfare reform, the president has demonstrated what he is against,” said Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “Now he must demonstrate what he is for.”
The veto came just after budget talks between the White House and Congress recessed with the sides still far from compromise. As the negotiations crumbled, the president and Congress were $37 billion apart in the amount of savings they were willing to make over seven years in welfare and the earned income tax credit.
The president said he was determined to work with the Congress to reform welfare and Republicans congressional leaders expressed willingness to negotiate, so the prospects for overhauling the system were not dead.
“If he thinks he’s going to get a Democratic bill out of a Republican Congress - he’s not looking at it realistically,” said Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., the chief architect of the GOP welfare reform plan. “We’re willing to negotiate and compromise. But if he wants to deliver on his campaign promise of welfare reform, he’s going to have to deal with the Republican Congress. We have already moved substantially in his direction.”