Republican governors say that President Clinton is not being truthful when he claims he has allowed welfare reform to proceed by quickly approving state experiments.
Clinton is trying to disarm criticism that he failed to change "welfare as we know it" - as he promised in his 1992 campaign - by claiming he has given the states free hands to experiment.But the nation's GOP governors - 31 of the 50 governors are Republican - say the Clinton administration has rejected some state efforts and continually drags its feet on others.
They note that Clinton has twice vetoed welfare reform plans passed by the Republican Congress.
Because many state welfare reform efforts clash with current federal law, the Clinton administration must give states waivers before they can proceed.
Clinton has claimed credit for a drop in the welfare caseload nationally that he said stemmed from his giving states freedom to experiment. Top White House aides said Clinton had approved all state waiver requests.
Clinton recently hailed a Wisconsin plan that would end Aid To Families With Dependent Children and require all recipients to work. But Clinton did not say he would approve Wisconsin's waiver, and aides said that would be handled through the normal channels at the Department of Health and Human Services. It is the bureaucracy at HHS that GOP governors says is stopping and delaying them.
The Republican Governors Association cited HHS summaries showing that 27 waivers are still pending and have been delayed an average of 271 days. Another 12 requests were denied or have been withdrawn because of opposition from HHS.
The HHS documents also said that even among the 60 initiatives that have been approved, the average delay was 210 days, the governors said.
"Last July, President Clinton stood before the nation's governors and promised to sign our welfare waivers within 30 days," said Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson. "Governors and individual states can only go so far in reforming welfare programs without presidential approval. It is high time for Clinton to put his words into action and sign the 27 welfare waivers that are still pending."
South Carolina Gov. David Beasley said the White House has misrepresented how his state's request for a waiver was handled.
"There's been a lot of talk out of the White House about what is going on in South Carolina. They say they have granted waivers to allow random drug testing for welfare recipients and that failure to comply with treatment can mean loss of all welfare benefits," Beasley said. "Well as usual, the president has chosen to disregard the facts."
Beasley said the HHS bureaucracy watered down the requirement so that in some cases random drug tests can be applied, "but in no instance shall failure to pass a drug test mean non-compliance and shall not constitute a basis for sanction. In other words, this waiver is meaningless."