Mike Huckabee appeared on Fox & Friends on Tuesday morning to attack President Obama over a plan to allow states to apply for waivers from welfare work requirements. But in 2005, as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee endorsed federal legislation that would have created even more expansive state waivers than the ones being implemented by the Obama administration, signing a letter that promoted "increased waiver authority" as a means "of moving recipients from welfare to work." The attacks from the right-wing media mirror attacks from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who also endorsed Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF) waivers as governor of Massachusetts in 2005.
In a recent rule change, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed granting states more flexibility in how they implement TANF programs by granting them waivers from requirements that require benefit recipients to document work-related activities in order to qualify for the program. Although the rule change was reportedly requested by Republican governors from Utah and Nevada, the right-wing media reacted by accusing the Obama administration of "gut[ting]" the "Clinton welfare work requirement." Fox News host Huckabee appeared on the July 17 edition of Fox & Friends to perpetuate the attack, claiming:
HUCKABEE: A lot of people thought [TANF work requirements] would just cause all kinds of trouble. Well, the opposite happened. More than half of the people that had been on welfare got off and went on payrolls from welfare rolls. It was successful. The unemployment rate went down, the poverty rate went down, and now the Obama administration, through what I believe to be an illegal executive order and a change of the rule, is trying to make it so that they redefine what work means.
Huckabee went on to claim that the Obama administration was issuing the rule change "to make people dependent upon the government that they want to keep in power so they will continue to get benefits."
But Huckabee was not always opposed to TANF waivers. As the Washington Post reported, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius pointed out recently that Mike Huckabee, as governor of Arkansas, "specifically endorsed Senate legislation, which would have allowed many states to receive waivers far broader than we are allowing now." In a 2005 letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Huckabee, along with several other governors, endorsed a TANF reauthorization bill that would have created "[i]ncreased waiver authority" and granted states more flexibility. From the letter:
State Flexibility - The Senate bill provides states with the flexibility to manage their TANF programs and effectively serve low-income populations. Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work.
The wording used in the 2005 letter signed by Huckabee closely mirrors language from HHS. In a memo which explains the rule change, HHS noted that the waiver program will provide states "with more flexibility to innovate in the TANF program with the goal of helping more families find jobs and move toward self-sufficiency."
The right-wing media's attack on the rule change has closely mirrored language used by Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts also signed the 2005 letter asking for broad TANF waivers . As the Huffington Post reported, Romney recently echoed the right-wing media's claim that TANF waivers would "strip the established work requirements from welfare":
"President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare," Romney said in a statement. "The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work. The President's action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life."