The Government Accountability Office has issued a ruling on the Obama Administration’s offer of waivers on the welfare program, which Republicans have falsely claimed would “end the work requirement for welfare.” The GAO ruling could lead to a Congressional up-or-down vote on the rule change, and may even force President Obama into an uncomfortable position of issuing a veto to save the waivers.
Orrin Hatch, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Dave Camp, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, asked GAO about the waiver grant from the Health and Human Services Department to states who seek more flexibility in administering their welfare programs (known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF). Specifically, they wanted to know if it fell under the auspices of the Congressional Review Act, a Gingrich-era law that allows for Congressional oversight for eligible regulations.
In a legal opinion requested by Senator Orrin Hatch, Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Finance and Representative Dave Camp, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the GAO General Counsel’s Office determined that the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent memo making changes to operation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program constitutes a rule for purposes of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Under the CRA, the rule must be submitted to both Houses of Congress before it can take effect.
The CRA is intended to keep Congress informed of the rulemaking activities of federal agencies and provides that before a rule can take effect, the agency must submit the rule to each House of Congress and the Comptroller General, head of the GAO. GAO concluded that the Information Memorandum issued by HHS is a statement of general