Work over Welfare

Work over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law

Ron Haskins
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 450
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  • Book Info
    Work over Welfare
    Book Description:

    Work over Welfaretells the inside story of the legislation that ended "welfare as we know it." As a key staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee, author Ron Haskins was one of the architects of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996. In this landmark book, he vividly portrays the political battles that produced the most dramatic overhaul of the welfare system since its creation as part of the New Deal.

    Haskins starts his story in the early 1990s, as a small group of Republicans lays the groundwork for welfare reform by developing innovative policies to encourage work and fight illegitimacy. These ideas, which included such controversial provisions as mandatory work requirements and time limits for welfare recipients, later became part of the Republicans' Contract with America and were ultimately passed into law. But their success was hardly foreordained. Haskins brings to life the often bitter House and Senate debates the Republican proposals provoked, as well as the backroom negotiations that kept welfare reform alive through two presidential vetoes. In the process, he illuminates both the personalities and the processes that were crucial to the ultimate passage of the 1996 bill. He also analyzes the changes it has wrought on the social and political landscape over the past decade.

    InWork over Welfare, Haskins has provided the most authoritative account of welfare reform to date. Anyone with an interest in social welfare or politics in general will learn a great deal from this insightful and revealing book.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-3509-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Building the American Welfare State
    (pp. 1-19)

    Until the congressional elections of 1994, Democrats had dominated the formation of American social policy since the Great Depression. This dominance had been so complete that even one of the most important Republicans between the end of World War II and the Republican takeover of Congress in 1995, President Richard Nixon, was a protoliberal in most matters of domestic policy. In neat Hegelian fashion, this dominance by Democrats produced a reaction against federal social programs that culminated in a revolution in federal social policy following the Republican sweep of Congress in 1994.

    This book is the story of how Republicans,...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Laying the Groundwork
    (pp. 20-36)

    On January 4, 1995, E. Clay Shaw Jr. of Florida, from the Committee on Ways and Means, Jim Talent of Missouri, from the Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee, and more than a hundred other Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced HR 4, the most radical welfare reform bill ever introduced in Congress until that time.¹ Although Shaw’s bill would go through substantial changes in both name and substance, this bill served as the basic text for all subsequent Republican welfare reform legislation in the House and Senate during the great welfare debate of 1995–96. More important, many...

  6. CHAPTER THREE House Republicans Unite behind Radical Reforms
    (pp. 37-58)

    The problem with campaign promises is that after the election many people remember the promises and actually expect the newly elected candidate to deliver. So it was with President Clinton. After repeatedly promising to “end welfare as we know it” during the campaign, he had to have an initiative on welfare reform—and many of us hoped and believed that he truly wanted to pass legislation reforming welfare. On February 2, 1993, at the annual Washington meeting of the National Governors Association, the newly inaugurated president announced that he would appoint a task force to draft his welfare reform legislation....

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Contract with America
    (pp. 59-81)

    For members of Congress, an election year means that every speech, every bill, every thought has to pass through the crucible of whether the action will gain votes or lose votes. This means that strategy for passing a particular bill might give way to strategy for winning the election if the two should conflict. For those like me who had the luxury of watching rather than running in elections, it was easy to determine that, whether in the minority or majority after the 1994 elections, House Republicans would not be able to pass a good welfare reform bill unless they...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The House Initiates the Revolution
    (pp. 82-105)

    Sometime after midnight on November 9, 1994, I fell asleep watching election returns on television. As on so many of these lonely biennial vigils of defeat, I drifted off. For what seemed like only a few minutes, I existed in the hazy world between consciousness and dreaming. Two words circulated in my spinning mind like socks in a clothes dryer: “Speaker Gingrich, Speaker Gingrich, Speaker Gingrich.” Surely it was a dream. So again I gave up and fell more or less asleep. At five in the morning. I awoke with the television still on and again the first thing I...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Battle in the House, Part I: Hearings
    (pp. 106-134)

    Few scenes in American politics are more familiar than the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s. Witnesses and their lawyers sat at long tables placed in front of members of Congress perched behind long desks on risers. Every seat behind the long desks was filled by a member of Congress. Behind the members were ambitious young staffers, ready to answer furtively whispered questions or supply new information at a moment’s notice. And of course, the hearing room was packed with witnesses. This all made for good newsreels, movies, and television reenactments, although it was a minor...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The Battle in the House, Part II: Markups
    (pp. 135-164)

    If the statute books are slightly open during a legislative hearing, they are wide open during a markup. There are many exciting times during a bill’s journey from obscurity to law, but only action on the House floor and the House-Senate conference are more exciting than a markup. Especially when major legislation is at hand, the number of organizations and individuals who try to influence the outcome is enormous. The political parties themselves often have a major interest in the outcome; many members of the committees of jurisdiction and some members outside the committee almost always have specific provisions they...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The Battle in the House, Part III: The Floor
    (pp. 165-193)

    Stand on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and you are in the midst of the world’s greatest institution of democratic debate and decisionmaking. The essence of democracy is majority rule, and Republicans intended to rule the House floor. By now, less than three months into the Republican takeover of the House, Republicans had established control over the floor of the House of Representatives and thereby greatly increased the odds that we could move our welfare reform bill another crucial step toward becoming law. The component parts of the growing bill had burst forth from the House...

  12. CHAPTER NINE The Senate Joins the Revolution
    (pp. 194-226)

    After the frenzied activity between the congressional elections of November 1994 and passage of the House bill on March 24, 1995, our welfare reform cabal in the House spent six anxious months watching the Senate produce a welfare reform bill of its own. As an editorial in theWashington Timesin July 1995 pointed out, by mid-summer the House had passed thirty-one bills related to the Contract with America, but only three had become law.¹ The author held that the Senate was the “graveyard” of our magnificent House legislation. If the House was a sleek cigarette boat knifing through the...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Budget Issues Trump Welfare Reform
    (pp. 227-253)

    A House-Senate conference committee is policymaking at its rawest and is the most intense and dramatic occasion in the federal policymaking process. Both houses have passed a bill. In nearly every case, the House and Senate bills differ, often substantially. The goal of the majority party in the conference committee is to produce a single bill that can attract a majority of votes in both houses. The goal of the minority party is usually to either get their provisions into the final bill or to defeat the entire bill. Once the conference committee has completed its work, the resulting bill...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN Clinton Vetoes Welfare Reform, Again
    (pp. 254-267)

    With our leadership casting about for a strategy, Clay Shaw and others renewed the call to complete the welfare reform conference and send Clinton the welfare reform bill separately. In addition, with the budget battle virtually drowning out the welfare reform struggle, Shaw and Bill Archer were both determined to do everything possible to keep welfare alive and get as much press coverage as possible. Among numerous other activities, we met with the Catholic bishops who had been such critics of our bill; released our report and held a press conference on Secretary Donna Shalala’s letter to welfare conferees criticizing...

  15. CHAPTER TWELVE The Governors Revive the Revolution
    (pp. 268-287)

    What a letdown. From the beginning of negotiations on the Contract with America welfare reform bill in May 1994, through White House negotiations that included the strange but exciting Cabinet Room seminar, and through the president’s vetoes, our subcommittee and its chairman and staff had been in a constant state of action, often bordering on frenzy. But when President Clinton vetoed the welfare reform bill for the second time on January 9, 1996, it was undeniable that the bill had been deeply wounded, perhaps fatally. Most of us who had worked so hard on the bill had allowed ourselves to...

  16. CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Revolution Threatened
    (pp. 288-313)

    As the House and Senate committee hearings and markups were creating the ingredients for yet another revolutionary welfare reform bill, serious problems loomed. As could be expected, not the least of these were Democrats and their allies outside Congress. They were not about to watch a New Deal entitlement killed off without a fight. One of the cleverest and most effective weapons created by liberals was developed by Wendell Primus, the former Ways and Means staffer who was then a senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The weapon was a social science study. To understand...

  17. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Triumph: Clinton Signs
    (pp. 314-331)

    At four-thirty in the afternoon of July 25, 1996—two days after the Senate had passed its bill—House and Senate Republican conferees met in the middle room of Trent Lott’s office, around that big rectangular table—the same table where Jim McCrery had asked Senator John Chafee’s staffer to stop whispering in his ear. The major purpose of the meeting was for Lott and Newt Gingrich to give the conferees a pep talk about the importance of finishing our work quickly. Lott was there but Gingrich had been detained. Others present were Clay Shaw, Phil Gramm, Orrin Hatch, Jim...

  18. CHAPTER FIFTEEN Ten Years Later: The Triumph of Work
    (pp. 332-363)

    It has been ten years since the welfare reform law was signed by President Clinton amid predictions of disaster from the left. Thanks to requirements in the legislation itself that provided millions of dollars for research, to an unprecedented level of research sponsored by foundations, to data reported by states to the federal government, and to national data collected and reported on a routine basis by the Census Bureau, a tremendous volume of information bearing on the effects of the legislation has been produced.¹ Most of this research addressed the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and, to a lesser...

  19. APPENDIX The Welfare Reform Law That Reshaped American Social Policy
    (pp. 364-376)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 377-428)
  21. Index
    (pp. 429-450)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 451-452)