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GOP Caucus Eyes Major Welfare Overhaul

| by Robert Fowler

The conservative House Freedom Caucus have called for the broader GOP to include major welfare overhaul in their planned reform of the U.S. tax code. The House Republicans assert that adding work requirements to entitlement programs, in combination with taxation cuts, would help keep the budget deficit neutral.

Republican lawmakers are currently attempting to overhaul the U.S. tax code. The House Speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has urged his colleagues to keep their plans deficit neutral so they could implement them through budget reconciliation, which would not require any Democratic support, according to the Associated Press.

This has resulted in broad disagreements across the party. The GOP's broad goal is to cut taxes across the board, but they must offset those cuts with other forms of revenue. Some Republican lawmakers have proposed closing tax loopholes, which has drawn protests from their colleagues.

Members of the Trump administration would prefer to slash the corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent to 15 percent. Ryan and his colleagues have proposed reducing that figure to only 20 percent. Senior analyst Scott Greenberg of the conservative Tax Foundation has asserted that either reduction could not be offset by simply closing other tax loopholes.

"If lawmakers are interested in paying for a large corporate rate cut solely by 'closing corporate loopholes' or 'repealing special preferences', then they will be greatly disappointed," Greenberg wrote in an analysis.

The House Freedom Caucus has proposed that the solution to achieving the tax cuts without adding to the long term deficit is to impose work requirements on welfare programs on a national scale and cap funding for those programs. The effort is spearheaded by Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

"What we're talking about putting forward is this: Maybe we can live with a higher budget number if in fact we do real welfare reform on the tax bill," Jordan said June 9, according to USA Today.

The Ohio lawmaker has pitched legislation that would introduce work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program programs. The bill would require able-bodied recipients of the two welfare programs to work for 100 hours a month and would place time limits on how long a person or family could be enrolled.

Jordan's bill would also cap federal funding for housing assistance programs. In his view, the new requirements would only be fair to Americans who do not need welfare.

"The first category that Americans are so frustrated with are able-bodied adults without dependents," Jordan told the Washington Examiner. "For goodness' sake: You've got to do something. You can't just get help from the taxpayer and not have to do something."

The bill would allow parents whose families rely on SNAP and TANF benefits to work split the 100-hour work requirement. Families with infant children would be exempt entirely.

"It's a tough-love way to get them to a better position in life," Jordan asserted. "What you find is, when work requirements are imposed, that people either go get the skill set they need or they're doing some volunteer work or they're doing some job training -- they're helping themselves, bettering themselves."

The Ohio lawmaker urged the GOP leadership to "Put welfare reform on the tax bill... You have to move people from welfare to work, or you're not going to be able to get to a 3 percent growth rate."

The House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, has expressed an openness to the Freedom Caucus' suggestion.

"We're look at that," Brady told The Washington Times. "I get the argument that we need a workforce ready for a much stronger economy."

Not everyone agrees that welfare work requirements would translate to a more robust workforce.

"Getting people into the labor system quickly doesn't necessarily have long-term benefits," researcher LaDonna Pavetti of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told The Atlantic, noting that welfare recipients in need of work fast typically resort to low-paying and part-time employment for short-term durations.

The House Minority Leader, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, blasted Jordan's proposal through spokeswoman Caroline Behringer.

"So they want to take food away from children and support from families in need so they can give bigger tax cuts to their wealthy friends," Behringer said of the House Freedom Caucus. "Yeah, that's not going to fly with the American people."

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