Overhauling welfare was one of the defining goals of Bill Clinton’s presidency, starting with a campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it,” continuing with a bitter policy fight and producing change that remains hotly debated 20 years later.
Now, President Donald Trump wants to put his stamp on the welfare system, apparently in favor of a more restrictive policy. He says “people are taking advantage of the system.”
Trump, who has been signaling interest in the issue for some time, said this past week that he wants to tackle the issue 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 Sanderssaid 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 Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, told a recent gathering at the conservative Heritage Foundation that he and another staffer had been charged with “working on a major welfare reform proposal.” He said 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,” Winfree said. “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.”
Trump said in October that welfare was “becoming a very, very big subject, and people are taking advantage of the system.”
Clinton ran in 1992 on a promise to change the system but struggled to get consensus on a bill, with Democrats divided and Republicans pushing aggressive changes. Four years later, he signed a law 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.