That’s Not Gutting! This is Gutting!

Brian Beutler of TPM has an outstanding catch today: even as Republicans lash the Obama administration for a fictitious effort to abolish work requirements for welfare recipients, House GOPers are sponsoring legislation that would really, really let states drop such requirements altogether.

Take it away, Brian:

There’s little Republicans love more these days than falsely attacking President Obama for stripping work requirements out of welfare.

But in their zeal to slash and de-federalize safety net programs, they’ve advanced legislation that would do exactly that.

The bill — sponsored by Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Joseph J. Heck, (R-NV), and Buck McKeon (R-CA) and called the Workforce Investment Improvement Act — would allow states to lump moneys from state-federal employment and training programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, into a single fund. But by doing so, it could essentially nullify federal eligibility requirements for those programs, according to the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan analysis arm of Congress which reviewed the bill.

It’s ideologically consistent with other piecemeal GOP efforts to roll back and privatize federal support programs, and/or devolves them to the states. As such it would empower state and local workforce boards, and increase employers’ influence on those boards. But it goes farther than anything President Obama has done to TANF, which been accused — inaccurately — of eliminating welfare-to-work requirements….

According to the Congressional Research Service analysis of the bill published this month, “[I]f TANF funds were consolidated into the [Workforce Investment Fund], TANF program requirements (e.g., work requirements) may no longer apply to that portion of funding because the TANF funding would not exist (i.e., it would be part of the WIF and thus subject to WIF program requirements).”

Now none of this would come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the history of GOP approaches to welfare reform, which have always valued state flexibility over federal rules, and caseload reductions over serious efforts to place welfare recipients in real jobs. To a significant extent, GOP support for “work requirements” has often been more about punitively encouraging people on TANF to “self-deport” to live without government assistance rather than to make it possible for them to do so. That should be obvious enough from the persistent GOP efforts, taken to extreme lengths in the Ryan budget, to decimate all the federal programs that help “make work pay” for people leaving welfare.

But still, it’s pretty funny to see a House committee favorably report a bill that would encourage states to flatly do exactly what Republicans have heatedly claimed the Obama administration is stealthily, indirectly, incrementally plotting to let them sorta kinda do.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.