August 22nd, 2012
08:46 PM ET
(CNN) - John Sununu, a high-profile surrogate for Mitt Romney, on Wednesday stood by the criticism of President Barack Obama in Romney campaign television advertisements that make a claim CNN and others have found to be false."But on July 12th, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements," said one ad, using language similar to a spot released Wednesday morning. "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check."
Sununu, who is a former governor of New Hampshire, argued on CNN's "The Situation Room" that the Obama administration weakened work rules related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in a July 12 Health and Human Services memorandum.
Sununu said the memorandum goes "well beyond" a waiver request from several governors related to the law. Among the governors who have recently requested waivers are two Republicans.
Governors can request, and may be granted, waivers from certain aspects of the law, and the memo in question said the "Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is interested in more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement, or access to jobs that offer opportunities for earnings and advancement that will allow participants to avoid dependence on government benefits." Requests must be accompanied by an "evaluation plan," a timetable, budget, public input, and "a set of performance measures that states will track to monitor ongoing performance and outcomes throughout the length of the demonstration project."
Romney and Republicans have seized on the memo. Last week, Romney told reporters that the president has allowed for "a removal of the work requirement in certain cases." Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, charged in an interview Tuesday that Obama "is weakening the work requirements which where I come from in Wisconsin, it was a smashing success."
Sununu argued that the Obama administration's memo included "broad-enough language that allows it to include aspects that are not employer training, real training or employer related.
"And what you want to avoid is language that encourages or permits people to do those soft self-studies that a lot of people have been talking about that people ought to be able to do, to look for work on the Internet instead of going to an employer," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Blitzer read from the governors' requests and the HHS memo, and told Sununu,"We've done the research. Not only us, but every major fact-checker has done the research and the president wants to make sure that in this particular case, that work requirement is maintained."
"It's not just CNN, it's every major fact-checking organization has said he has not gutted, has not gutted by any means, the work requirements," Blitzer said.
A CNN fact-check of the ad's claim aired earlier in the program and rated it false. PolitiFact.com categorized it as "Pants on Fire!" and FactCheck.org wrote, "A Mitt Romney TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted 'a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.' The plan does neither of those things."
Pressed about the fact check reports in an interview Wednesday, Romney himself offered a defense and essentially faulted the outlets for showing bias, even though his campaign has used analyses by some of the groups, like FactCheck.org, to bolster its own arguments.
"Fact-checkers on both sides of the aisle will look in the way they think is most consistent with their own views," Romney told the Des Moines Register in Iowa, before repeating the claim. "It's very clear that others who have looked at the same issue feel that the president violates the provision of the act which requires work in welfare, defines what work is. He guts that, he ends that requirement for those that seek that welfare."
The president also answered a question on the subject in a Monday news conference, saying, "Everybody who's looked at this says what Governor Romney is saying is absolutely wrong."
"In fact what's happened was that my administration, responding to the requests of five governors, including two Republican governors, agreed to approve giving them, those states, some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20 percent increases in the number of people who are getting work," he said. "So in other words, we would potentially give states more flexibility to put more people back to work, not to take them off the work requirement under welfare."