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Fact check: Romney's welfare claims wrong

From Tom Foreman and Eric Marrapodi, CNN
updated 2:01 PM EDT, Thu August 30, 2012
  • Romney ad claims that Obama has "gutted" welfare reform
  • Romney campaign claims Obama plan eliminates work requirement
  • White House allowed some states waivers from existing welfare rules
  • States, some with GOP governors, had asked for flexibility in handing out funds

Washington (CNN) -- Welfare reform, which added a work requirement tied to welfare benefits, is often cited as a major bipartisan political success of President Bill Clinton's second term.

So the idea of the next Democratic president, Barack Obama, taking the work requirement off the table is political dynamite.

Apparently, the Romney campaign believes it is.

A Romney campaign ad titled "Welfare Reform," which came out earlier in August, says that's just what Obama did.

"On July 12, President Obama quietly ended the work requirement, gutting welfare reform. One of the most respected newspapers in the country called it 'nuts,' " the ad says.

"Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and you wouldn't have to train for a job," the ad continues. "They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare ..."

But the Obama campaign calls Romney's ad "nuts."

CNN's Fact-check agrees.

Clinton calls out 'disappointing' Romney ad

"Every single person here who's looked at it says it's patently false," Obama said a news conference on Monday.

So where did the notion of a major welfare reform overhaul come from?

Where it didn't come from is Washington but rather from Utah, Nevada, California, Connecticut and Minnesota.

These states, some with Republican governors, asked the federal government for more flexibility in how they hand out welfare dollars. Their purpose was to spend less time on federal paperwork and more time experimenting with ways to connect welfare recipients with jobs.

The Obama administration cooperated, granting waivers to some states from some of the existing rules.

The waivers gave "those states some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20% increases in the number of people getting work."

In some small way, the waivers might change precisely how work is calculated but the essential goal of pushing welfare recipients to work -- something both Democrats and Republicans agreed to in the 1990s -- remains the same.

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