Despite gloomy prospects for success, the White House may ask Congress to restore about $13 billion in spending eliminated from the welfare law signed in August by President Clinton.
Clinton, under election-year pressure, signed the Republican-crafted measure, which will save $54.6 billion over the next six years.
Even as he did so, Clinton pledged to fix aspects of the bill he considered to be too severe - particularly steep cuts in food stamp spending and the eventual elimination of most benefits for legal immigrants.
Clinton made these promises despite the fact that any significant departures from the law would have to go through Congress, which is still in Republican hands.
Nonetheless, a preliminary proposal - which Clinton has yet to approve - would restore about one-fourth of the $55 billion cut, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said talk of any change is premature because Clinton has not signed off on the proposals. He said the $13 billion figure is simply a starting point for White House number crunchers: It’s the difference between Clinton’s 1995 welfare budget and the GOP welfare total.
House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, said this week he would fight “with energy” any attempt by Clinton to significantly alter the bill.
And Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said that Congress was unlikely to involve itself with any major changes to the bill; instead, Daschle suggested, the president should work with governors who are crafting their own, individual welfare laws.
One proposal under consideration by White House staff would restore food stamp eligibility for many legal immigrants who have not become citizens. The new law denies food stamps to most non-citizens.
Another idea would increase the number of food stamps given to families with high housing costs, a proposal that would mostly affect families with children.
A third proposal would relax the work requirements for able-bodied adults who have no dependents.