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CLINTON CALLS WELFARE PLAN THE RIGHT STEP

SHARE CLINTON CALLS WELFARE PLAN THE RIGHT STEP

President Clinton says the welfare reform plan he will unveil next week is something that "the Bubbas of America and liberals" can agree is the right way to reduce dependence on government.

Clinton, in two news magazine interviews released Saturday, predicted his scaled-back plan to put a two-year limit on cash benefits for most adults and steer them to jobs would "make a dramatic difference."House Republican Whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia said Clinton's plan was welcome as a good first step but that a rival Republican plan was better and tougher.

The president is expected to formally announce his $9.3 billion blueprint Tuesday. He told Time magazine that welfare reform is something people "have a more intuitive feel for" than health-care reform and could move forward quickly.

And he told U.S. News & World Report that it's not "just the Bubbas of this country who believe there's something badly wrong with a system that maintains people in a state of dependency."

The heart of the president's plan is a 24-month limit on cash benefits for most adults on the rolls of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the chief welfare program.

Parents who exhaust their cash benefits and are unable to find a job on their own would be enrolled in a subsidized job or community service job that pays minimum wage. They would be allowed to remain in the work program indefinitely, as long as they were doing everything possible to find jobs.

According to the administration, the work program would be expected to grow to 400,000 participants by 2000. If 5 million families were still on welfare by the end of the century, just 8 percent would be enrolled.

Gingrich, in an interview aired Saturday on CNN's "Evans and Novak," said Clinton's plan was a good place to begin negotiations "but I think when you read the fine print . . . you're going to find that this bill has to have a lot of work done on it before it's successful."