Fox News' Karl Rove distorted President Obama's record on welfare reform, falsely claiming the administration "will not approve any policies which reduce the level of welfare assistance." In fact, the letter Rove cited as evidence said the administration would not grant waivers to states if their program would block access to the benefit programs. It did not declare that states could not reduce the level of assistance.
In recent weeks, Rove's American Crossroads has been cheering and enabling Mitt Romney's dishonest campaign to accuse the Obama administration of stripping work requirements out of welfare reform. In fact, the waiver program simply grants states flexibility in figuring out how to comply with federal guidelines on transitioning aid recipients to work.
Rove appeared on the August 27 edition of Fox's America Live to discuss the Republican National Convention. After Fox's Juan Williams pointed out that the Romney campaign has made false claims about Obama, including the false claim that "welfare is going to be expanded under President Obama," Rove pushed back. According to Rove, a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the administration would not approve "any policies which reduce the level of welfare assistance."
Rove's interpretation of HHS letter is a flat out distortion.
The letter, which announced the Obama administration's willingness to allow states to experiment with work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, very clearly laid out a prohibition on states using waivers to reduce access to benefits.
The Secretary will not approve a waiver for an initiative that appears substantially likely to reduce access to assistance or employment for needy families. [Emphasis added]
This is in no way consistent with Rove's claim that HHS would prohibit states from reducing levels of "welfare assistance."
In fact, the entire purpose of the program is to aid people moving into employment and away from dependence on TANF. From the letter Rove cited:
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is interested in more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement, or access to jobs that offer opportunities for earnings and advancement that will allow participants to avoid dependence on government benefits.
The Secretary is only interested in approving waivers if the state can explain in a compelling fashion why the proposed approach may be a more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement, or access to jobs that offer opportunities for earnings and advancement that will allow participants to avoid dependence on government benefits.