Republican Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa on Sunday pressed the GOP assault against President Obama’s decision to grant states waivers on the work requirements of the landmark 1996 welfare reform law pushed through Congress by President Bill Clinton.
Though Republican governors traditionally demand more flexibility and waivers from federal laws, both Scott and Branstand condemned this grant of flexibility. “This is a huge step in the wrong direction,” Branstad said on Fox News Sunday. He told host Brit Hume that the law has been very successful “and now we see this administration trying to gut it. I think it is illegal.”
When Hume challenged him, suggesting he seemed to be saying that federal bureaucrats know better than governors, Branstad did not waver, insisting that the administration’s action “gets back to the kind of entitlement mentality” the law changed. Instead, he said, the governors want more flexibility on Medicaid.
Scott said the president’s action takes away from the welfare law’s emphasis on “personal responsibility.”
The welfare issue surfaced on Thursday when the Department of Health and Human Services notified states that HHS would consider waivers from the welfare system’s work requirements “to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.”
Like Branstad, Scott also hit Obama on the proposed expansion of Medicaid, saying, “The federal government can’t afford this; we can’t afford this.” He called it, “just another government program where the federal government will run out of money.”
While Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, speaking on CNN's State of the Union, did not go so far as to say his state would not be implementing the Medicaid expansion. But he did say he wants Obama to answer questions about the law before he goes forward.
"I sent a letter on behalf of 29 Republican governors to the president with 30 decent questions about what does this mean in light of the court's ruling? We're waiting for some good answers on that, but we don't know a lot about what the implications are," he said.
McDonnell added that he's disinclined to implement the Medicaid expansion before the election, because if Romney wins, the whole law will be thrown out. "Frankly, we're not going to waste taxpayer money now if Mitt Romney wins,” he said. “On day one he said waivers to the states and we're gonna repeal and replace this Obamacare.”
Asked about the presidential campaign, Branstad and Scott urged Mitt Romney to push past this week’s attacks on his work record by President Obama and to talk more about his own programs.
“It’s pretty pathetic when the president of the United States, instead of running on his record... is spending his time attacking other people,” Branstad said.
Alexandra Jaffee contributed.