It Will Shame the Congress’

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan made the following statement on the Senate floor on September 16, 1995.

On this, the likely final day of the debate on the welfare reform measure before us, it is worth noting that in the lead story of The New York Times this morning, a story by Robin Toner, we read that “the White House, exceedingly eager to support a law that promises to change the welfare system, was sending increasingly friendly signals about the bill.”

That is a bill that would repeal Title IV A of the Social Security Act of 1935 that provides aid to dependent children. It will be the first time in the history of the nation that we have repealed a section of the Social Security Act. That the White House should be eager to support such a law is beyond my understanding, and certainly in thirty-four years’ service in Washington, beyond my experience.

I regret it. I can only wish some who are involved in the White House or those in the administration would know that they might well resign if they disagree with the proposal that violates every principle they have asserted in their careers, honorable careers in public service.

I will state once again, we yesterday read Mr. Rahm Emanuel, a White House spokesman, saying the measure was coming along “nicely.” Today we get the same message in a lead story in the Times. If this administration wishes to go down in history as one that abandoned, eagerly abandoned, the national commitment to dependent children, so be it. I would not want to be associated with such an enterprise, and I shall not be.

There being some spare time in our schedule just now, I would like to take the occasion, and exercise the privilege, as I see it, of reading to the Senate the lead editorial in The Washington Post [Sept. 14] this morning. It is entitled “Welfare Theories.” This is an editorial page which has been dealing thoughtfully, supportively, with welfare problems for thirty-five years.

On the opposite page, columnist George Will musters the most powerful argument against the welfare bill now on the Senate floor. The bill purports to be a way of sending strong messages to welfare recipients that it is time for them to mend their ways. But as Mr. Will notes, ‘no child is going to be spiritually improved by being collateral damage in a bombardment of severities targeted at adults who may or may not deserve more severe treatment from the welfare system.’

The bill is reckless because it could endanger the well-being of the poorest children in society in the name of a series of untested theories about how people may respond to some new incentives. Surely a Congress whose majority proudly carries the mantle ‘conservative’ should be wary of risking human suffering on behalf of some ideologically driven preconceptions. Isn’t that what conservatives always accused liberals of doing?

The best thing that can be said of this bill …

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