DES MOINES, Iowa -- In a new television ad, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney charges that the president has quietly announced a plan to gut the bipartisan 1996 welfare reform law.
The re-election campaign for President Barack Obama has called this a false attack on changes that Romney once supported.
It's a line of criticism that Romney probably will stress while in Iowa for two events. He has a private fundraiser Tuesday night in West Des Moines and a public speech in Des Moines on Wednesday morning.
"In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare," a male voiceover says in the TV commercial. "But on July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.
"Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare. Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works."
The 30-second ad, called "Right Choice," will air in Iowa, campaign aides said Tuesday.
The Obama plan that the advertisement refers to is a July memo released by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department that says it can authorize states to test new approaches to improving employment among low-income families.
The idea was to give states more flexibility, a move requested by certain Republican and Democratic state officials, federal officials said. They said caseworkers are spending more time trying to meet mind-numbingly detailed federal rules than helping parents find jobs.
But Republicans and conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, quickly blasted the directive as gutting welfare reform.
The Heritage Foundation said all the work requirements can be waived, making the welfare-to-work program "a blank slate that HHS bureaucrats and liberal state bureaucrats can rewrite at will."
A statement on the Obama campaign website says the president is a champion of welfare-to-work programs and the "new policy cannot be used to weaken welfare reform: Waivers that weaken or undercut welfare reform will not be approved."
In 2005, Romney joined other Republican governors in urging the Senate to move quickly on increased waiver authority for the welfare program, the Obama statement says.
By JENNIFER JACOBS
The Des Moines Register