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Republicans Set to Kick Off Effort to Override HHS Welfare Proposal

House Republicans this week will begin the process of moving legislation to prevent the White House from taking steps that the GOP argues would allow for a rollback of work requirements for a low-income aid program.

“The Ways and Means Committee intends to mark up the legislation this Thursday, and I hope the House will consider the legislation in the days following the markup,” Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said on a conference call with reporters.

Action in the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, would likely come during the lame-duck session, according to Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who was also on the call.

“So here we are today announcing that we are moving forward with a resolution of disapproval in both the House and the Senate to put a stop to what this administration did,” Hatch said.

Their comments come after the Department of Health and Human Services in late July released new guidance for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program that HHS said would allow waivers for certain requirements for aid in an effort to allow states to test various strategies, policies and procedures designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.

Hatch and Camp characterized the HHS move as a surreptitious effort by the White House to try to make drastic changes to the aid program without Congressional input.

“Clearly they didn’t follow the proper procedure,” Camp said, adding that he wants a full debate on what the White House is proposing.

Republicans charge that the administration proposal would result in removing work requirements put in place under welfare reform legislation enacted 16 years ago.

The issue has come up in the presidential campaign, with President Barack Obama’s supporters arguing that the plan would actually boost the work requirement.

“The administration agreed to give waivers to those governors and others only if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent, and they could keep the waivers only if they did increase employment,” President Bill Clinton said in his Democratic Convention speech last week.

Administration supporters say the “guidance” was designed to give states more flexibility by allowing them to test innovative strategies for how to meet the program’s goals.

Hatch and Camp were given the go-ahead to introduce their resolutions after the Government Accountability Office announced last week that HHS’ proposal is subject to the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to keep federal regulations from taking effect. Such a resolution cannot be filibustered and needs only a simple majority in the Senate to pass if acted on during a 60-day window.

While the measure is likely to pass the House, it’s unclear whether it will pass the Senate. Hatch said a vote would be held in his chamber by Oct. 1.

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