Wall Street Journal
September 05, 2012

Welfare Shift Should Be Put Before Congress, GAO Says

The Obama administration has said that the change came in response to requests from governors, including Republicans, to have greater flexibility in how they run their welfare programs so that they can be more effective. The administration argues that it has the power to do this without seeking congressional approval.

The president's spokesman Jay Carney has called Mr. Romney's attacks on the program "categorically false" and "blatantly dishonest."

Two leading Republicans, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, had asked the GAO to determine whether the administration's changes were the equivalent of a rule change that would require congressional approval.

On Tuesday, the nonpartisan office said that it was. "It must be submitted to Congress and the comptroller general before taking effect," wrote Lynn H. Gibson, GAO's general counsel, in a letter to the lawmakers on Tuesday.

But that finding does not require the administration to submit the changes to Congress, and it's not clear whether the Obama administration will do so.

Members of Congress could force the issue, armed with the GAO report, but such a move would face long odds in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Some 30 senators would have to band together to begin the process for disapproving of the change, but 51 would have to vote in favor of a debate and any resolution formally opposing it.

Mr. Hatch praised the GAO findings Tuesday, saying that they were further proof that the administration could not change the program without Congress's consent.

"This analysis is unequivocal that any changes must be submitted to Congress," he said. "Circumventing Congress, as this White House has done, is a flagrant abuse of our system of checks and balances and an insult to American taxpayers.

A spokesman for the department of Health and Human Services said that the agency was reviewing the GAO opinion, but it did not believe that the changes required congressional approval, and that previous administrations had taken similar stances.

View article here.