GAO confirms Obama administration overstepped bounds in welfare law changes
posted at 3:28 pm on September 5, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
The Obama administration’s efforts at extending executive authority were dealt a setback on Tuesday. The bipartisan Government Accountability Office flagged the administration’s end run around Congress in its July memo announcing changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) act, aka “welfare reform.”
The GAO said that the White House needs to give Congress the chance to block its plan that permits states to tweak the work requirements that needy families must satisfy in order to receive government assistance under the program.
The official word came in the form of a letter to lawmakers from GAO’s general counsel, Lynn H. Gibson, who wrote that the directive “must be submitted to Congress and the comptroller general before taking effect.”
In response to criticism of the directive, which was issued by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the White House has argued that the change was made to accommodate governors, including Republicans, who had requested greater latitude in how they administered their welfare programs. The administration also insisted that the constitutionally derived power of the executive branch permitted it to move forward without seeking congressional approval.
The limits on the scope of executive authority have been a constant game of tug-of-war between the administration and legislative branch. In June, GOP candidate Ron Paul accused the president of violating the War Powers Resolution in his decision to intervene militarily in Libya. Obama’s defiant response was captured in a CNN video that also featured Paul’s reaction.
Sen. Orrin Hatch praised the GAO findings Tuesday, saying:
This analysis is unequivocal that any changes must be submitted to Congress. Circumventing Congress, as this White House has done, is a flagrant abuse of our system of checks and balances and an insult to American taxpayers.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the agency was reviewing the GAO opinion, adding that the secretary still believes that the changes do not require congressional approval.
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