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Obama, Mitt welfare clash escalating

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Mitt Romney campaign video released Tuesday

Obama campaign video released Tuesday

WASHINGTON--The Obama campaign is pushing back hard Wednesday on the Mitt Romney claim that President Barack Obama wants to "gut welfare"-- a charge that distorts the Obama administration policy change--but one the Romney team is sticking with as the clash escalates.

To keep the controversy alive, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be on a conference call Wednesday morning organized by the Republican National Committee with the announced topic: Obama on "gutting welfare reform."

The Obama team, in a video titled "Dubious,"calls out Romney as a hypocrite, recalling that as a Massachusetts governor, he signed letter asking the federal government for more flexibility for states to deal with federal welfare-to-work requirements. Romney is "flexible on welfare, and the truth," the video said.

The welfare-to-work requirements were a signature achievement of former President Bill Clinton--who forged a bi-partisan deal with Republicans to get it passed.

On Tuesday, the Romney campaign released a video headlined "The Rise and Fall of Welfare Reform," highlighting the bi-partisan nature of the legislation--while continuing to assert that Obama wants to unravel the law.

Romney's side invokes Democrats to make its case: "In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed bipartisan legislation that reformed welfare. Democrats from Carl Levin to John Kerry, and even Joe Biden supported the bipartisan reforms. President Obama, on the other hand, has been a consistent opponent of the law and recently dismantled the historic bill. When it comes to welfare reform, President Obama is out of step with the country, his party, and even his own Vice President."

Clinton roared into action, putting out a statement saying Romney's assertions are not true.

"Romney released an ad today alleging that the Obama administration had weakened the work requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. That is not true.

"The act emerged after years of experiments at the state level, including my work as Governor of Arkansas beginning in 1980. When I became President, I granted waivers from the old law to 44 states to implement welfare to work strategies before welfare reform passed.

"After the law was enacted, every state was required to design a plan to move people into the workforce, along with more funds to help pay for training, childcare and transportation. As a result, millions of people moved from welfare to work.

"The recently announced waiver policy was originally requested by the Republican governors of Utah and Nevada to achieve more flexibility in designing programs more likely to work in this challenging environment. The Administration has taken important steps to ensure that the work requirement is retained and that waivers will be granted only if a state can demonstrate that more people will be moved into work under its new approach. The welfare time limits, another important feature of the 1996 act, will not be waived.

"The Romney ad is especially disappointing because, as governor of Massachusetts, he requested changes in the welfare reform laws that could have eliminated time limits altogether. We need a bipartisan consensus to continue to help people move from welfare to work even during these hard times, not more misleading campaign ads."

My Monday post on what triggered this dispute, Romney's comments about Obama and welfare on a campaign stop in Elk Grove Village, Ill. and Obama team response is HERE.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on August 8, 2012 7:30 AM.

Where Rahm was on Aug. 7: In Washington for Obama fund-raising was the previous entry in this blog.

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