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Bush calls for tougher welfare rules

Bush, Sanford
Bush poses Monday with South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Sanford during the roundtable discussion.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush stressed the importance of tougher welfare requirements Monday -- a key Republican issue ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November.

The landmark 1996 welfare reform law is scheduled to expire this year.

The Bush administration proposal would require 70 percent of welfare recipients to be employed within five years, while the current law calls for 50 percent to be employed.

Bush led a roundtable discussion Monday in Charleston, South Carolina, to lay out his vision for welfare reform.

He pointed out Lushanda Bright, a single mother of two sitting in the audience, as an example of welfare-to-work success.

He said she had gone from dire financial straights to full-time employment at a local hospital through a local welfare-to-work program.

"The federal government finally in its wisdom said, We ought to trust the local people to help," Bush said. "The more we trust in the local people, the more likely it is that good programs will spring forward to help the Lushanda Brights of the world."

The administration would increase the number of welfare recipients required to be employed within five years from 50 percent to 70 percent. It would also require 40-hour work weeks for welfare beneficiaries as opposed to the current 30.

Bush also advocates allowing faith-based groups to use federal dollars for job training programs for welfare recipients.

The president's version of welfare reform will be a tough sell. Democrats want more money for child-care and educational programs for parents.

State governors who implement the welfare-to-work programs want more freedom and less micro-management from Washington.

-- CNN Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.




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