ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. -- Mitt Romney, campaigning here Tuesday, accused President Obama of trying to weaken work requirements for welfare recipients, undermining a hard-fought bipartisan agreement and feeding a "culture of dependency."
"I hope you understand President Obama in just the last few days has tried to reverse that accomplishment by taking the work requirement out of welfare," Romney told supporters gathered in a precision-machining factory in this Chicago suburb. "That is wrong. If I'm president, I'll put work back in welfare."
Romney was referring to a July directive issued by the Department of Health and Human Services that would grant waivers to states in how they administer welfare. Five states led by governors of both parties have requested such waivers to reduce red tape.
The matter has caused controversy in the nation's capital, with Republicans arguing that such a move is not in the executive branch's purview, and that it waters down the welfare-reform agreement hammered out by President Clinton and Republicans in 1996.
Democrats have argued that the move simply gives states more flexibility, and note that any state that accepts a waiver will have it revoked if it doesn't move at least 20% more people from welfare to work than in prior years.
They also point out that state leaders have long requested such flexibility, including Romney, who in 2006 as governor of Massachusetts signed a letter along with other governors calling for "increased waiver authority."
The Obama campaign accused Romney of not telling the truth and being a hypocrite.
"As governor, Mitt Romney petitioned the federal government for waivers that would have let people stay on welfare for an indefinite period, ending welfare reform as we know it, and even created a program that handed out free cars to welfare recipients," said Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith. "These false and extremely hypocritical attacks demonstrate how Mitt Romney lacks the core strength and principles the nation needs in a president."
Romney was in Illinois primarily to raise money, though he held the brief public event in the morning. He started on a somber note, asking for a moment of silence for the victims who were killed and injured at a weekend shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
"The tragedy is even more profound because the Sikh religion and the Sikh people are such peaceful, loving individuals. And I think it's also more tragic because the shooter was apparently someone who was motivated by hate, hate based on race, hate based on religion," Romney said. "I certainly pray that God might rest the souls of those who lost their lives and comfort those who mourn."