Republican House leaders said Friday that if President Clinton doesn't act fast, they will pass a bill allowing Wisconsin to make the most dramatic welfare changes of any state in the country.
Clinton, who pledged during the 1992 presidential campaign "to end welfare as we know it," backed the Wisconsin plan in a radio address two weeks ago but has not signed the necessary waivers from federal law. Besides pressuring Clinton, a House vote could put Democrats in the embarrassing position of voting against welfare reform in an election year.In a letter to Clinton, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Dick Armey said: "We note the great speed with which you went on national radio to endorse the waiver once you learned that Senator Bob Dole would visit Wisconsin to announce his welfare proposal."
"We strongly urge you to sign the Wisconsin waiver without further delay. If you do not, the House will proceed to send you the Wisconsin waiver in the form of legislation."
Wisconsin plan for changing welfare into a jobs program cannot go into effect until waivers of federal laws governing welfare are granted.
That process could take weeks.
The request itself is a 400-page document seeking suspension of 75 federal regulations relating to welfare, food stamps and Medicaid.
Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican who has worked closely with House leaders, delivered it to the White House on Wednesday but did not discuss it then with Clinton.
"I'm pleased as punch Congress is going to take it up," Thompson said Friday in a telephone call from Wisconsin. He said the White House official who took the documents was noncommittal.
Clinton's endorsement of the plan came three days before Dole, his GOP presidential rival, made a welfare speech in Wisconsin on his own welfare proposals. The move was widely interpreted as Clinton trying to pre-empt Dole.
However, Clinton administration spokesman Michael Kharfen said Friday the plan fits with the president's own principles for time-limiting welfare, promoting responsibility and protecting children.