New GOP Offer for Biden in Debt Limit Talks: Requiring More People on Welfare to Work
Maureen Groppe, USA Today, March 30, 2023
Congressional Republicans are floating a longtime goal – getting more people off federal assistance and into the workforce – as a tradeoff they’d accept in exchange for avoiding a default on the nation’s debts.
President Joe Biden has said lawmakers have an obligation to make sure the nation’s bills get paid and he won’t negotiate conditions.
Passing tougher work requirements will be a difficult haul for Republicans who only control the House. But, after getting pummeled by Biden over who will better protect Medicare and Social Security, Republicans may be hoping the issue will resonate with the working-class voters Biden has been courting as he prepares to run for re-election.
Or, it could backfire if the White House successfully charges Republicans with going after the poor after cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy during the Trump administration.
But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reminded Biden Tuesday that he’s supported work requirements in the past.
And House Republicans held hearings Wednesday to promote the idea.
“We should be exploring every possibility to get our fellow Americans back into the labor force, including strengthening work requirements across all government programs,” said Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
There were no specifics in the letter McCarthy sent Biden Tuesday in which he listed strengthening work requirements as one of four ways to reduce the national debt.
But Republicans have recently introduced legislation to restrict the ability of states to reduce work requirements for food stamp recipients and to expand who has to work to get help. For example, the age limit for work requirements on able-bodied adults without dependents would be raised from 49 to 65.
GOP Reps. Jake LaTurner of Kansas and Mary Miller of Illinois dropped a bill this month to require able-bodied adults to work or volunteer for at least 20 hours a week to remain eligible for Medicaid.
And at a House hearing Wednesday, Republicans said states are abusing loopholes to get around work requirements for cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Republicans argue too many people are being paid to sit at home while employers are desperate for workers.
“We must end the era of dependency for able-bodied adults, encourage labor force participation, and restore the dignity of work,” Texas Rep. Jodey Arrington, the GOP chairman of the House Budget Committee said Wednesday when he opened a hearing on the state of the nation’s finances.