Signaling a hard struggle ahead on welfare reform, Sen. Phil Gramm criticized the plan of his Republican presidential rival Sen. Bob Dole, saying Sunday it will fail to stem the rise in out-of-wedlock births.
Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation," Gramm said that the welfare reform bill Dole, R-Kan., introduced Saturday was too weak, and that he has the votes to rewrite it."The Dole bill does not have a binding work requirement because it has no enforcement mechanism that actually takes the money away if people won't work," said Gramm, R-Texas. "I think we'll win on that."
Gramm said there would also be "very close votes" on his attempts to mandate cutoffs in payments for teenage welfare mothers who have more children, and to bar welfare payments to immigrants. "Somehow, he thinks that giving welfare to immigrants is a good political issue," he said of Dole's bill. "I think it's bad public policy."
Gramm has taken a strong stand on welfare reform as part of his effort to narrow the wide lead Dole, the Senate majority leader, holds in the race for the 1996 GOP presidential nomination.
"We can't fool around with marginal changes. We are either going to dramatically change welfare and break this cycle or we are going to end up losing America as we know it," Gramm said.
The Dole bill won't change the steady increase in the percentage of children born to single mothers, he said.
Dole's bill, which has the backing of 32 of 54 Republican senators, would turn over welfare programs to the states in the form of block grants, impose a five-year lifetime limit on benefits, and require teenage mothers to live at home and attend school to get welfare. He said it would curb welfare spending by $70 billion over seven years.
But Gramm claimed it only reforms 12 percent of means-tested federal welfare programs, and would have strings attached "to protect special interests but not to help the people." For example, he said, Texas would not be able to use welfare recipients to wash windows if that meant displacing state workers.
"My bill would have tens of thousands of fewer strings than Sen. Dole's bill," he said.
Another candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, California Gov. Pete Wilson, also criticized the Dole bill Sunday, saying it should have a family cap.