The House voted 250-164 to block the Obama administration's rule change to the Welfare Reform Act on Thursday. Nineteen Democrats voted for the resolution as well.
After the Obama administration made changes
to the Welfare Reform Act, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to determine whether the Obama administration had in fact made a change to the law and thus had to give Congress an opportunity to block it.
"It must be submitted to Congress and the comptroller general before taking effect," the GAO determined.
Robert Rector, the "godfather" of the 1996 law, said the Obama administration's rule change would make it easier for states to waive the work requirements and redefine work to include things like taking fitness classes.
House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) said it was “abhorrent” that Obama would “oppose bipartisan welfare reforms that have helped so many Americans transition away from government assistance and escape poverty by finding jobs to support themselves and their families.”
“When President Obama recently ruled by executive fiat to waive the work requirements for welfare, he indicated his continued determination to impose his agenda irrespective of our nation’s constitutionally-guaranteed balance of powers and at whatever the costs,” Price protested. “For the president, this is clearly about his own political philosophy, not our economy. The American people need a president who will lead this nation, not just the liberal flank of his own party.”
Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) said, “multiple times over the last decade, officials at HHS said they had no legal authority to do what the Obama administration did in July.”
“The president’s attempt to waive welfare work requirements doesn’t just violate the law,” Jordan said. “It also hurts people on welfare.”
Democrats accused Republicans of holding the vote to help Romney’s election chances in light of the Republican presidential candidate's comments about the 47% of Americans that do not pay federal income taxes. A portion of Romney's comments at a private fundraiser were made public in an incomplete video published by Mother Jones.
However, Republicans had asked the GAO to determine whether Congress should have an opportunity to vote on blocking Obama’s welfare rule change before that story broke.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) claimed Republicans were trying to block the welfare rule change “just because the candidate for president made another mistake.” He said of the legislation, “it is wrong and it ain't going nowhere."
The Obama administration's rule change cannot be blocked unless the Democrat-controlled Senate approves of the resolution, which is unlikely.