WASHINGTON -- Republican governors Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa on Sunday attacked President Barack Obama's decision to grant states increased flexibility on the work requirement for welfare.
While conservatives traditionally support state waivers for federal laws, the Republican governors blasted the administration's plan to allow such waivers for the work requirements stipulated in the 1996 federal welfare reform law negotiated between congressional Republicans and President Bill Clinton.
“This is a huge step in the wrong direction,” Branstad told Brit Hume on "Fox News Sunday," adding that he believed the law had been very effective “and now we see this administration trying to gut it. I think it is illegal.”
Branstad suggested the president was overstepping his executive powers, while Scott said residents of his state seeking benefits would still have to look for work.
“People need to be going out and looking for a job,” said Scott. “We believe in personal responsibility, and we’re going to have that in our state.”
The remarks come after the Department of Health and Human Services announced in a memo Thursday that states may be allowed to grant waivers for the welfare program's strict work requirements, arguing the move would spur state-level welfare innovation and provide the enforcement flexibility states need.
Since then, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has joined other Republicans in accusing Obama of attempting to gut welfare reform and overhaul one of the landmark bipartisan achievements in recent decades.
“The president’s action is completely misdirected,” Romney said in a statement. “Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.”
Branstad, when challenged on Sunday, didn't budge on his criticism of the administration’s actions, arguing it “gets back to the kind of entitlement mentality” the law changed to being with. Instead, he said, state need to have more flexibility on Medicaid.
Scott meanwhile, drove home spending concerns, calling it “just another government program where the federal government will run out of money."
"The federal government can’t afford this," he added. "We can’t afford this.”