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Trump Signals Welfare Reform Next      11/24 06:25

   Trump, who has been signaling interest in the issue for some time, said 
Monday at a Cabinet meeting that he wants to tackle welfare reform after the 
tax overhaul he is seeking by the end of the year.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Welfare reform was one of the defining issues of 
President Bill Clinton's presidency, starting with a campaign promise to "end 
welfare as we know it," continuing with a bitter policy fight and producing an 
overhaul law that remains hotly debated 20 years later.

   Now, President Donald Trump wants to put his stamp on the welfare system.

   Trump, who has been signaling interest in the issue for some time, said 
Monday at a Cabinet meeting that he wants to tackle welfare reform after the 
tax overhaul he is seeking by the end of the year. He said changes were 
"desperately needed in our country" and that his administration would soon 
offer plans.

   For now, the president has not offered details. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee 
Sanders said more specifics were likely early next year. But the groundwork has 
already begun at the White House and Trump has made his interest known to 
Republican lawmakers.

   Paul Winfree, director of budget policy and deputy director of the Domestic 
Policy Council, told a gathering at the conservative Heritage Foundation last 
week that he and another staffer had been charged with "working on a major 
welfare reform proposal," adding that they have drafted an executive order on 
the topic that would outline administration principles and direct agencies to 
come up with recommendations.

   "The president really wants to lead on this. He has delivered that message 
loud and clear to us. We've opened conversations with leadership in Congress to 
let them know that that is the direction we are heading," Winfree said.

   Trump said in October that welfare reform was "becoming a very, very big 
subject, and people are taking advantage of the system."

   Welfare reform proved challenging for Clinton, who ran in 1992 on a promise 
to "end welfare as we know it," but struggled to get consensus on a bill, with 
Democrats divided and Republicans pushing aggressive changes. Amid that 
conflict, he signed a law in 1996 that replaced a federal entitlement with 
grants to the states, placed a time limit on how long families could get aid 
and required recipients to go to work eventually.

   It has drawn criticism from some liberal quarters ever since. During her 
presidential campaign last year, Democrat Hillary Clinton faced activists who 
argued that the law punished poor people.

   Kathryn Edin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who has been studying 
welfare since the 1990s, said the law's legacy has been to limit the cash 
assistance available to the very poor and has never become a "springboard to 
work." She questioned what kinds of changes could be made, arguing that welfare 
benefits are minimal in many states and that there is little evidence of fraud 
in other anti-poverty programs.

   Still, Edin said that welfare has "never been popular even from its 
inception. It doesn't sit well with Americans in general."

   Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at Heritage, said he would like to 
see more work requirements for a range of anti-poverty programs and stronger 
marriage incentives, as well as strategies to improve outcomes for social 
programs and to limit waste. He said while the administration could make some 
adjustments through executive order, legislation would be required for any 
major change.

   "This is a good system. We just need to make this system better," he said.

   Administration officials have already suggested they are eyeing anti-poverty 
programs. Trump's initial 2018 budget proposal, outlined in March, sought to 
sharply reduce spending for Medicaid, food stamps and student loan subsidies, 
among other programs.

   Budget director Mick Mulvaney said earlier this year, "If you are on food 
stamps and you are able-bodied, we need you to go to work."


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