Clinton Veto Needed on Punitive Welfare Legislation

by Andrea Lee and Mira Weinstein

NOW Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey protests Republican attempts to pass punitive welfare reforms as part of a budget bill.

 After a long and somewhat secretive process, a House-Senate conference committee finally reported out a horrible welfare bill. It drew immediate calls for a presidential veto from NOW and other activists.

 "This bill is worse in many important respects than the Senate's bill; it contains almost all of the most egregious provisions of the House bill," said NOW Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey.

 The bill cuts a total of $82 billion in essential help for children and families. The Senate bill originally cut $65 billion while the House bill cut $92 billion. The conference bill also:

As this issue went to press, most of these provisions appear as an amendment to the latest budget reconciliation bill. President Clinton was expected to veto the budget bill, then face the welfare proposal as a stand-alone bill for signature.

 President Clinton indicated he would veto the welfare reform bill as it stood based on the conference committee's work. To hold Clinton to this commitment, Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter she hoped would be signed by 146 colleagues and thus prove to Clinton that the House could sustain a veto.

 Throughout the attempts to abolish the welfare safety net, NOW's commitment to poor women and their families remained strong. NOW's action alert system generated hundreds of calls to representatives, senators and the White House to oppose any punitive welfare measures.

 At a Nov. 15 White House protest and news briefing attended by 200 activists, Dempsey urged President Clinton not to sign welfare legislation that would "undo a 60-year commitment of this country to its people that a safety net would always be in place to prevent starvation and homelessnes." She warned that "unless the president vetoes this bill, he will have colluded with the Republican congressional leadership in breaking this promise."

 National NOW Secretary Karen Johnson participated in an October meeting on welfare with White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. Johnson previously testified before a hearing by Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and the Media Campaign for Fairness on Welfare.

Action Needed

If a welfare bill has not gone to President Clinton by the time you read this, please help us keep up the pressure by making two quick calls.

1.) Make sure President Clinton vetoes the bill. Call the White House Comment Line at 202-456-1111 and urge the president to veto any welfare legislation that abolishes the federal safety net for poor women and their families.

2) Make sure your representative signs on to the Mink letter. You can reach your representative through the Capitol Switchboard at 800-972-3524 or 202-224-3121. Ask if she/he has signed on to the letter. If not, urge her/him to do so.

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