CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In his Wednesday night address to the Democratic National Convention, former president Bill Clinton defended President Barack Obama from Republican charges that Obama "gutted" the welfare reform legislation Clinton signed into law in 1996.
Clinton called the charge "a real doozy."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has claimed in television ads and stump speeches that Obama singlehandedly removed the welfare reform law's requirement that states ensure a certain percentage of welfare recipients engage in work or work-related activities. In fact, the Obama administration announced in July only that it would consider waivers of certain federal welfare rules for states interested in trying projects to boost employment among welfare beneficiaries.
"Here's what happened," Clinton said. "When some Republican governors asked to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama administration listened, because we all know it's hard for people to get jobs today, so moving people to work is a real challenge. So the administration said they would only do it if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent."
Republican-led Utah and Nevada were among the states interested in leeway from welfare rules they considered unhelpful in putting poor parents back to work. While Romney's ads have said Obama "quietly ended the work requirement," no waivers have even been issued. And Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has said he would only support waivers "where work and self-sufficiency were the basis for the program waiver."
"Did I make myself clear? The requirement was for more work, not less," Clinton continued. "This is personal to me ... The claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform's work requirement is just not true. But they keep running ads claiming it."
The Romney campaigns ads use images of Clinton signing the welfare reform bill into law. Clinton previously called the premise of the ads "not true," as have a plethora of independent news organizations. The Romney campaign has said, however, that it will not be deterred by fact-checkers.
"Their campaign pollster said, 'we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,'" Clinton said. "Now, finally I can say, that is true. I couldn't have said it better myself –- I just hope you remember that every time you see those ads."