Heritage Action Supports Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Mike Lee’s Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (H.R. 2832/S. 1290)

Earlier this month, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (H.R. 2832 & S. 1290). This legislation would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, restore families, and strengthen the effective and popular work requirements on means-tested welfare programs that have been gutted by the Obama administration.

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became popularly known as “welfare reform,” into law. The legislation transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program intended to provide temporary financial assistance to low-income families while encouraging work and self-sufficiency. Most significantly, the 1996 welfare reform included mandatory federal work requirements, stipulating that welfare recipients must be engaged in work or some type of work activity in order to receive TANF benefits.

According to Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, and Rachel Sheffield’s paper Setting Priorities for Welfare Reform:

“Mandatory federal work requirements for recipients were at the heart of the change, which led to significant decreases in the program’s rolls, increased work among former recipients, and historic reductions in child poverty.”

Despite the success of the 1996 welfare reform, 20 years later there’s still much to be done to ensure that the welfare system moves people toward work and self-sufficiency rather than toward government dependency. Rector and Sheffield continue:

“The United States’ means-tested welfare system [still] consists of over 80 programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans. Total annual spending on these programs reached $1 trillion in 2015. More than 75 percent of this funding comes from the federal government….

“Although the welfare reform of the 1990s was popular and initially successful, it was actually quite limited. Of 80 welfare programs, only TANF was reformed, and even in TANF, the vigor of reform has nearly disappeared.”

Rep. Jordan and Sen. Lee have restarted the conversation, advocating for conservative reforms that will help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, restore families, and strengthen the effective and popular work requirements that have been gutted by the Obama administration. These ideas, and more, are found in the most comprehensive and serious welfare reform legislation introduced since Republicans regained control of Congress in 2010: The newly reintroduced Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (H.R. 2832/S. 1290).

The bill contains five major policy reforms:

  1. Improves accounting of government welfare spending by requiring the federal government to report all means-tested welfare spending–including state and local––as well as to report estimated spending levels over the next decade.
  2. Strengthens work requirements for all able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDS) who receive food stamps (SNAP). Similar reforms have been implemented in Maine, Kansas, and Alabama with great success. It also creates a new work requirement for parents in SNAP, modeled after the 1996 TANF law.
  3. Strengthens TANF work requirements by implementing a new “work preparation requirement” for the 50% of the TANF caseload that is currently completely idle.
  4. Phases down the federal involvement in subsidized housing programs by decreasing the federal share of funding by 50% over ten years and transferring fiscal responsibility for these programs to the states.
  5. Prohibits any funding for abortion.

While there is more to be done to achieve comprehensive welfare reform, such as rooting out fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit and eliminating marriage penalties, Senator Lee and Congressman Jordan’s Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act is not just a white paper, but a serious and significant first step toward real welfare reform.

This bill builds on the successful 1996 law by restoring and strengthening TANF work requirements and by placing real work requirements into SNAP, the second largest means-tested welfare program in operation today. It requires accountability for welfare spending and moves toward creating true federalism in America’s welfare system. If enacted, this legislation would be the start of Welfare Reform 2.0, by compassionately encouraging work while saving the taxpayers trillions of dollars over the next twenty years.

***Heritage Action supports this legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

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ENLIST Act (H.R. 60) Claims and Responses

In January, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) introduced a bill that would provide legal status to illegal immigrants if they join the military. The Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act (H.R. 60) would allow “Dreamers” to receive lawful permanent resident (LPR) status in exchange for military service.

While promoted by some of its supporters as a solution to our military preparedness problem, the ENLIST Act is amnesty — little more than a backdoor promise of citizenship for those who came here illegally. The bill would further damage our broken immigration system by putting those in violation of the law ahead of those who want to come to our country legally. It is difficult to argue that such an arrangement advances U.S. national security objectives. Conservatives should oppose the ENLIST Act and fight any effort by Rep. Denham or others to attach the bill to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) later this year.  

Below are some commonly made claims and straightforward conservative responses:

Claim: The ENLIST Act does not provide backdoor amnesty, only lawful permanent resident status.

Response: Once an illegal immigrant acquires LPR status through this bill, they are eligible to apply for citizenship on an expedited basis and become citizens within months. Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow Charles Stimson explains:

“[S]ections 328 and 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allow LPRs to apply for expedited naturalization either after one year of military service or after one day of military hostilities, respectively. Thus, if the ENLIST Act were passed in its current form, illegal immigrants who signed up for military service would obtain LPR status immediately and, after one day of service during conflict, could apply for expedited citizenship. That process takes only a matter of months.”

Claim: Earning legal status by serving in the military is not amnesty.

Response: The ENLIST Act turns the notion of an all-volunteer military on its head. Wade Miller, a Marine combat veteran and South Central Regional Coordinator for Heritage Action, explains it would “undermine the important social narrative that allows our all-volunteer military to thrive, namely that service is a benefit, as opposed to a punishment.” Miller continues:  

“It is a privilege to serve in America’s all volunteer force, and that service instills some of the most valuable virtues a citizen could hope for in a Republic. Military service also builds within one the vital moral warrior ethos that every peaceful society must maintain. The United States government also spends significant amounts of money to impart enduring skills on military servicemen and women. The financial compensation for my time in the military pales in comparison to the betterment of my character that military service and combat experience gave me.

“In proposing the exchange of amnesty for military service, politicians not only create the wrong incentives for military service and potentially expose security risks, they also undermine the military’s service-oriented ethos.”

Claim: The ENLIST Act does nothing to incentivize more illegal immigrants to come to the United States.

Response: While the current version of the bill only applies to those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children prior to 2012, it suggests the Federal Government is not serious about enforcing its immigration laws and makes similar legislation in the future more likely to pass. Congress should fix our broken immigration system and enforce the law, not pass one-off legislation like the ENLIST Act that exacerbate the problems.

Claim: The ENLIST Act does not harm U.S. national security objectives.

Response: This bill does nothing to advance U.S. national security objectives. Instead, it undermines the military by unnecessarily dragging the controversial immigration debate into the military and the brave men and women who serve it. Based on the experience involving the temporary amnesty that President Obama instituted through executive fiat known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Stimson suggests vetting could also be problematic:

“This program, however, has not met its already modest requirements. Specifically, DACA recipients are supposed to pass a background check, but after just a couple of months, DHS began conducting “lean and lite” background checks, urging employees to accept all DACA recipients, explicitly waiving rules regarding proof of identity, and even stopping background checks altogether.”

Claim: The ENLIST Act helps our military preparedness.

Response: It is true that the U.S. military is experiencing a more challenging recruiting environment, but the answer is not a backdoor amnesty program that itself raises national security challenges. Increasing the pool of potential applicants to illegal immigrants is a short-sighted answer to the ongoing readiness issue the military faces. Congress should instead focus its efforts on adequately funding the military to address readiness issues.

Claim: President Trump wants Congress to pass the ENLIST Act to help improve our military readiness.

Response: Legislation is unnecessary. Section 329 (8 U.S.C. 1440) gives the president the authority to provide the same citizenship to aliens who have served in the military during “armed conflict with a hostile foreign force.” Thus, when we need people during times of war, the president can use this provision to attract non-citizens (legal and illegal) into the military.

Claim: The ENLIST Act is consistent with long standing military policy that rewards foreign nationals with citizenship if they serve in the military.    

Response: Historically, U.S. military policy has rewarded legal immigrants with citizenship for serving in the armed forces, not illegal immigrants as clearly laid out in Sections 328 and 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The U.S. has and continues to welcome foreigners throughout the world who desire to come to our shores legally; especially those who want to serve in the military. The ENLIST Act violates generous U.S. immigration laws by putting those who violated the law ahead of those who are waiting in line to come to the country legally.   

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Senate BCRA Activist Toolkit

Before the August recess, the Senate failed to pass a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare. The bill was not a meaningful repeal, but rather a legislative vehicle that would have allowed the House and Senate to go to a conference committee to negotiate a stronger bill — ideally including reforms to let states opt out of Obamacare’s costly regulations. Moderate Republican Senators refused to support that bill despite promises on the campaign trail over the last seven years.

Rather than fighting for their campaign promises, moderate Republicans are now signaling they are ready to work with liberals to bail out the broken law. Conservatives cannot allow this. Even before the vote failed, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) suggested hearings to explore “stabilizing the individual market.”  Continuing illegal bailouts to prop up insurance companies’ losses does nothing to solve the underlying problems of Obamacare and work toward patient-centered affordable health care. We need to apply pressure to your senators to publicly oppose any bail out of Obamacare. 

Any effort at bipartisan stabilization will all but guarantee the status quo of rising premiums and declining choice. Simply throwing more taxpayer dollars at the problem will not solve it.

Congress should oppose any attempt to bail out Obamacare and instead go back to the table and continue to negotiate a bill that actually repeals and replaces Obamacare.

Since the Senate can’t garner enough votes to bring relief to the millions suffering under Obamacare, it’s time Congress subject itself to the full brunt of the law. Back in 2013, the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) exempted members of Congress and their staff from the full burden of Obamacare by letting them enroll in the small-business health care exchange and receive taxpayer subsidized plans.

President Trump can unilaterally undo Obama’s unconstitutional exemption, requiring members of Congress to live under the laws they pass. Facing the reality of double digit premium increases, like millions of Americans on the individual market, Congress may feel pressure to come back to the negotiating table and follow through on years of promises to finally repeal Obamacare.

To learn more read the full Sentinel brief available here.

Name Phone Number Twitter
Cotton (R-AR) (202) 224-2353 @SenTomCotton
Cruz (R-TX) (202) 224-5922 @SenTedCruz
Johnson (R-WI) (202) 224-5323 @SenRonJohnson
Lee (R-UT) (202) 224-5444 @SenMikeLee
Paul (R-KY) (202) 224-4343 @RandPaul
Sasse (R-NE) (202) 224-4224 @SenSasse
Toomey (R-PA) (202) 224-4254 @SenToomey
Barrasso (R-WY) (202) 224-6441 @SenJohnBarrasso
Corker (R-TN) (202) 224-3344 @SenBobCorker
Fischer (R-NE) (202) 224-6551 @SenatorFischer
Flake (R-AZ) (202) 224-4521 @JeffFlake
Hatch (R-UT) (202) 224-5251 @senorrinhatch
Wicker (R-MS) (202) 224-6253 @SenatorWicker
Capito (R-WV) (202) 224-6472 @SenCapito
Heller (R-NV) (202) 224-6244 @SenDeanHeller
Gardner (R-CO) (202) 224-5941 @SenCoryGardner
Murkowski (R-AK) (202) 224-6665 @lisamurkowski
Portman (R-OH) (202) 224-3353 @senrobportman
Sullivan (R-AK) (202) 224-3004 @SenDanSullivan
Boozman (R-AR) (202) 224-4843 @JohnBoozman
Cassidy (R-LA) (202) 224-5824 @BillCassidy
Daines (R-MT) (202) 224-2651 @SteveDaines
Hoeven (R-ND) (202) 224-2551 @SenJohnHoeven
Kennedy (R-LA) (202) 224-4623 @SenJohnKennedy
McCain (R-AZ) (202) 224-2235 @SenJohnMcCain
McConnell (R-KY) (202) 224-2541 @SenateMajLdr
Alexander (R-TN) (202) 224-4944 @SenAlexander
Young (R-IN) (202) 224-5623 @SenToddYoung
Burr (R-NC) (202) 224-3154 @SenatorBurr
Tillis (R-NC) (202) 224-6342 @SenThomTillis

(Make sure to insert the twitter handle of your Senator)

Click to tweet: President Trump is right – Congress should live under the laws they pass. #NoExemptions #NoBailouts

Click to tweet: @MEMBER bailouts are not the next step, keep your promise to repeal and replace #Obamacare.

Click to tweet: Congress shouldn’t get special treatment and avoid the impact of #Obamacare. #NoExemptions

Click to tweet: Congress should live under the same laws it imposes on the American people. End the illegal #Obamacare exemption

Click to tweet: @MEMBER, propping up Obamacare betrays years of promises to the American people, don’t support bailouts.

Click to tweet: When Congress says “stabilizing the market,” they mean propping up Obamacare’s failures #NoBailouts

Click to tweet: GOP broke 7 years of promises. The solution is not to bailout a failed law. #NoBailout

These are notes to use when calling your member of Congress. You can find their phone number on the Heritage Action Dashboard.

Hi, I’m [NAME] from [STATE].

Republicans campaigned for seven years to repeal and replace Obamacare. After the Senate failed to move the process to repeal this law forward,[Member/Senator] should not support any effort to put Obamacare on life support by bailing out insurance companies.

Obamacare continues to drive up premiums and decrease choice. Propping up a fundamentally unworkable law with even more taxpayer money and regulations will not provide Americans with relief.

President Trump is right to say that both insurers and Members of Congress shouldn’t be shielded from Obamacare’s failures.Please tell the [Member/Senator] to keep the promise you made over the past few years to repeal Obamacare and enact free-market reforms, not prop up the law through taxpayer bailouts.

Below is a sample letter to the editor. We encourage you to adapt and personalize it. Heritage Action Regional Coordinators are always here to help edit your letter and get it published.

LTE: Senator X – Bailing out Obamacare is not the solution

Before the August recess the Senate failed to follow through on years of campaign promises to to repeal and replace Obamacare. The GOP’s failure to provide relief for the American people suffering from rising premiums and the collapsing health care exchanges is no excuse to walk away from the negotiating table and bail out Obamacare.

Moderate Republican Senators want to begin bipartisan hearings to “stabilize the individual market.”  Working with liberals to throw more money at a broken law and perpetuate big government health care policy is an unacceptable betrayal of the American people.

SENATOR X, continuing these illegal bailouts to prop up insurance companies’ losses does nothing to solve the underlying problems of Obamacare and work toward free-market, patient-centered health care.

STATE has been waiting for Obamacare repeal for seven years. If SENATOR X wants to put failed law on life support, then President Trump is right to say Congress should live under the laws it passes. Ending the congressional exemption from Obamacare, which would ensure members and their staff know the full brunt of this laws consequences, should bring members back to table to finally repeal this law.

SENATOR X, it’s up to you to oppose any bailouts of Obamacare and instead support repealing it’s taxes, rolling back the Medicaid expansion and empowering states through deregulation. You promised a repeal, not a bailout, and it’s time to get it done.

 

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Welfare Reform: Work Requirements for Food Stamps

Background: First created in the late 1930s as the Food Stamp Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal aid program that provides food-purchasing assistance for low-income families and individuals. SNAP is the second largest mean-tested welfare program in the U.S., providing more than 45 million individuals with food-assistance at a cost of $83.1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2014 alone.

Problem: Welfare programs, including food stamps, should be temporary, limited in size and scope, and assist those truly in need. But over the past two decades the program has grown out-of-control, both in cost and in the number of individuals receiving benefits. The number of food stamp recipients has increased from around 17 million in 2000 to more than 45 million in 2015, all while costs have risen from $20.7 billion to more than $83 billion during that same time frame.

The goal of any welfare program should be to increase self-sufficiency by helping individuals find a job, provide for their family, and escape the cycle of poverty. As President Ronald Reagan so elegantly put it:

“Welfare needs a purpose: to provide for the needy, of course, but more than that, to salvage these, our fellow citizens, to make them self-sustaining and, as quickly as possible, independent of welfare. We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”

If we accept how President Reagan defines welfare success, the food stamp program has clearly failed. Perhaps most concerning is the number of able-bodied Americans without children who are now hooked on the program. Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, and Rachel Sheffield highlight this concern in their 2016 paper Setting Priorities for Welfare Reform:

“In recent years, the most rapidly growing group of food stamp recipients has been able-bodied adults without dependents. ABAWDs are adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled and who have no children to support. In 2014, nearly five million ABAWDs received food stamps each month; few are employed. ABAWDs who receive food stamps should be required to work, prepare for work, or look for work in exchange for receiving benefits.”

Solution: In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became popularly known as “welfare reform,” into law. The legislation transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program intended to provide temporary financial assistance to low-income families while encouraging work and self-sufficiency.

Most significantly, the 1996 welfare reform included mandatory federal work requirements, stipulating that welfare recipients must be engaged in work or some type of work activity in order to receive TANF benefits. These reforms were popular and successful as welfare caseloads dropped “by over 50 percent, employment of the least-skilled single mothers surged, and the poverty rates of black children and single-parent families dropped rapidly to historic lows.”

Legislative Solution: Congress should build on the success of the 1996 welfare reform by applying similar principles involving work requirements to SNAP. At a minimum, Congress should enact work requirements for ABAWDs as a condition to receive food stamp benefits. Rep. Garret Graves’ (R-LA) recently introduced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996) that would do just that.

This legislation would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, and restore families by strengthening the effective and popular work requirements. An overwhelming 90 percent of Americans agree that able-bodied adults receiving means-tested welfare assistance should be required to work or prepare for work. This reform was included in both President Trump’s FY2018 budget request as well as the House GOP’s FY2017 budget, and it has been implemented in Maine, Kansas, and Alabama with great success.

Call to Action: Heritage Action has endorsed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 and urges Sentinels to contact their members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. If passed and signed into law, this legislation would encourage millions of Americans to get back to work, help end the cycle of poverty for individuals dependent on government assistance, and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

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Heritage Action Supports Rep. Garret Graves’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017

This week, Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996). This legislation would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, and restore families by strengthening the effective and popular work requirements for all “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs) who receive food stamps from SNAP.  

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became popularly known as “welfare reform,” into law. The legislation transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program intended to provide temporary financial assistance to low-income families while encouraging work and self-sufficiency.

Most significantly, the 1996 welfare reform included mandatory federal work requirements, stipulating that welfare recipients must be engaged in work or some type of work activity in order to receive TANF benefits. These reforms were popular and successful as welfare caseloads dropped “by over 50 percent, employment of the least-skilled single mothers surged, and the poverty rates of black children and single-parent families dropped rapidly to historic lows.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 builds on the success of the 1996 welfare reform by applying similar principles involving work requirements to SNAP – a welfare program that has grown out-of-control in recent years, both in cost and in the number of recipients. From 2000 to 2015, food stamp recipients increased by more than 28 million and cost the government $83.1 billion in FY 2014 alone.

According to Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, and Rachel Sheffield’s paper Setting Priorities for Welfare Reform:

“The food stamp program is the second largest means-tested welfare program. In 2014, government spent $83.1 billion on the program. In recent years, the most rapidly growing group of food stamp recipients has been able-bodied adults without dependents. ABAWDs are adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled and who have no children to support. In 2014, nearly five million ABAWDs received food stamps each month; few are employed.”

Congress must consider common-sense reform to SNAP in order to rein in its unsustainable growth. Requiring able-bodied adults without dependents to work as a condition for food stamp benefits is a sensible, effective policy that should receive broad bipartisan support. An overwhelming 90 percent of Americans agree that able-bodied adults receiving means-tested welfare assistance should be required to work or prepare for work. This reform was included in both President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request as well as the House GOP’s FY 2017 budget, and it has been implemented in Maine, Kansas, and Alabama with great success.

Rector and Sheffield continue:

“ABAWDs who receive food stamps should be required to work, prepare for work, or look for work in exchange for receiving benefits. In FY 2014, Maine implemented a work requirement for ABAWDs. After the implementation of the work requirement, Maine’s ABAWD caseload dropped substantially, by 80 percent within just a few months. If a federal work requirement for ABAWDs were enacted and achieved the same level of success as was achieved in Maine, the reform could save taxpayers up to $9.7 billion annually.”

If passed and signed into law, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 would encourage millions of Americans to get back to work, help end the cycle of poverty for millions dependent on government assistance, and save taxpayers billions of dollars over the next decade.       

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

 

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