Signaling a hard struggle ahead on welfare reform, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) criticized the plan of his Republican presidential rival Bob Dole, saying Sunday that the Senate majority leader’s bill will fail to stem the rise in out-of-wedlock births.
Appearing on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation,” Gramm said the welfare reform bill that Dole (R-Kan.) introduced Saturday is too weak, and he has the votes to rewrite it.
“The Dole bill does not have a binding work requirement because it has no enforcement mechanism that actually takes the money away if people won’t work,” Gramm said. “I think we’ll win on that.”
Gramm said there will also be “very close votes” on his own attempts to mandate cutoffs in payments for teen-age welfare mothers who have more children and to bar welfare payments to immigrants.
Gramm has taken a strong stand on welfare reform as part of his effort to narrow the wide lead Dole holds in the race for the 1996 GOP presidential nomination.
“We can’t fool around with marginal changes. We are either going to dramatically change welfare and break this cycle or we are going to end up losing America as we know it,” Gramm said.
The Dole bill won’t change the steady increase in the percentage of children born to single women, he said.
Dole’s bill, which has the backing of 32 of 54 Republican senators, allows states to run their own welfare programs with federal block grants, imposes a five-year lifetime limit on benefits for adults and requires teen-age mothers to live at home and attend school to qualify. Dole says his bill curbs welfare spending by $70 billion over seven years.
But Gramm claimed Dole’s plan reforms only 12% of means-tested federal welfare programs and has strings attached. For example, he said, Texas would not be able to use welfare recipients to wash windows if that means displacing state workers.
Democrats and the White House oppose both the Dole and Gramm plans. The White House has said the priority of reform should be to put people to work and that Dole’s bill fails to meet that test.
Senate Democrats have put forth their own plan, which provides a child-care safety net as parents move into the workplace.