Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) made concessions to Republican conservatives and moderates Friday in an effort to muster enough votes next month to pass a welfare bill that gives states unprecedented responsibility for their poor.
“We’re very close to having the votes we need for a good complete overhaul of this system that has obviously failed,” said Dole, as he unveiled 21 modifications to his bill.
The changes reflected the views of up to 20 senators, he said. However, lawmakers in both wings of the party, who had forced Dole to set aside the bill early this week for lack of votes, were continuing to press for changes.
Several changes were aimed at winning the support of conservative Republicans led by Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, Dole’s rival for the GOP presidential nomination.
One major change would ban benefits for five years to immigrants who enter the country after the bill is enacted. Another would set annual goals for reducing out-of-wedlock births. Earlier in the week, Dole adopted a Gramm provision requiring states to reduce welfare benefits to recipients who refuse to work.
“We’re good on immigration, we’re good on work,” said Larry Neal, a spokesman for Gramm. “We’re not even close on bureaucrats and not even close on illegitimacy.”
Gramm has insisted the bill require states to deny cash benefits to new immigrants and unwed teen-age mothers and permit no additional money for babies born to mothers already on welfare.
He also wants a dramatic reduction in the number of federal workers who now administer welfare programs that, under the Dole and Gramm plans, would be turned over to states.
Despite the remaining differences, “we will pass a bill in September,” Gramm said at a news conference earlier Friday with Dole, other Republican senators and Republican Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts.
Dole on Friday added an option allowing states to exempt families with a child under age 1 from work requirements. He also would require that for the first two years of the new welfare system, states spend 75% of what they spent on Aid to Families With Dependent Children in 1994.