Obama-administration Repeal of Welfare Work Requirement Unconstitutional?
August 9, 2012
Andrew M. Grossman and Robert Rector at National Review Online say that the Obama administration’s recent decision to repeal, by executive fiat, the core of the welfare reform of 1996 (the work requirement) is illegal:
Section 407 establishes stand-alone work requirements for state welfare plans that brook no exceptions. And Section 407 is absent from the list of sections that the HHS secretary does have the authority to waive. That alone proves that Sebelius lacks any authority to waive the work requirements.
Indeed, Section 407 shows that Congress was concerned that HHS or states would attempt to evade the law’s strict work requirements. To prevent backsliding, Congress legislated in great detail, defining terms with specificity and setting hard caps on exemptions.
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In fact, the Obama administration’s interpretation, even if accepted by a court, actually is fatal to its waiver argument. It concedes that Congress allowed states obtaining waivers in the interim period after the 1996 law’s passage to ignore every single new requirement in the law except for the work requirements contained in Section 407, which states were required to implement immediately.