THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY BRUCE REED, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR DOMESTIC POLICY
Sheraton Burlington Hotel Burlington, Vermont
3:35 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you -- I think most people know Bruce Reed, Deputy Assistant to the President -- the welfare guy as he's otherwise known -- Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. He's available for -- several of you asked me to have someone who could run through a few Q and As on some of the policy aspects of the President's speech.
MR. REED: Okay, who want's to go first?
Q Limiting welfare to a set number of years, what numbers of years are you talking about?
MR. REED: Well, the President's plan and the Senate plan that he's endorsed has a two-year time limit. Recipients are required to work as soon as possible and within two years at the outside.
Q Why don't you run through the California waiver -- tell us how many other states have that and what it consists of.
MR. REED: The waiver that has been agreed on for California is for a family cap. I believe there are nine other states that have family cap demonstrations. The first was in New Jersey. There are several other states. I have a list if you need it. It limits additional benefits to recipients who conceive children while on welfare.
Q Your California thing says agreement in principle. In any way does that conjure up any kind of less than wholehearted agreement?
MR. REED: No, it will be done this week.
Q How soon could they then --
MR. REED: I don't know what the effective date is. I could get it for you.
Q Could you tell us a little bit about the arithmetic on that?
MR. REED: The arithmetic?
Q Yes, what the effect would be for a family.
MR. REED: Sure. I don't know the California benefit levels off the top of my head, but I imagine that -- California has pretty generous benefits. They're about $600, maybe $700 a month for a typical recipient with one or two kids. And the way a family cap works is that children who are conceived while on welfare don't get counted as an additional part of the family unit. So welfare benefits are based on the number of children you have. But in a family cap state the number of those children who are conceived on welfare don't count.
Q Do you have any more details --
MR. REED: I can get them.
Q Does the administration approve of this idea?
MR. REED: Well, there was a state option in our plan last year. The President has said all along that this is something that states ought to have the right to try. And it's early. We don't know whether it works or not.
Q Do you have any reservations about the possible damage that might end up doing? There are a lot of kids out there who aren't getting the milk they need because of this.
MR. REED: I think we will have to wait and see how it works. Some states want to try it because they think it will discourage births outside marriage and they also see it as a responsibility issue, that people who are already getting assistance shouldn't be having more children who need assistance. On the other hand it's an unproven idea.
Q The President talked about the 30 days for a waiver. Give us something to compare that with. How long has the California one been --
MR. REED: Well, in general, we give states 120 days. And what the President said today is that in these five areas where we've already approved waivers for other states there's no point in taking the full 120 days. We can turn it around in 30 days or less.
Q So one now takes about 120 days?
MR. REED: Yes.
Q Bruce, as you look at reality, what do you think the prospects really are for legislatively-enacted welfare reform this year?
MR. REED: Well, we'll find out later this week. The Senate is scheduled to take up welfare reform. They've been stalled for a couple of months because of pressures from the right. And I think that the Republicans understand that the American people desperately want welfare reform, and they can't keep it stalled in Congress forever. So I -- we're hopeful that we can see a bill that is in keeping with the President's principles.
Q Do you think the President's provisions reducing teenage illegitimate births and so forth, do you think they are sufficient to mollify people like Senator Gramm and Senator Faircloth and others in the Senate who have been rather implacable on that?
MR. REED: Well, again, we'll have to see how the debate goes in the Senate. Senator Dole said today that he agreed with the President that we shouldn't be mandating states to cut off young mothers who -- and their children who are young and unmarried. Senator Gramm has said in the past that he would filibuster a Republican welfare bill that did not have those mandates. But that decision is up to him.
Q Did the President think he was going far enough to bring in that --
MR. REED: Well, the President has moved on that point from the very beginning. In fact, on the issue of teen pregnancy, I think the debate has been coming his way. Several months ago, Republicans were pressing for orphanages as a way to fight illegitimacy. For several months, some on the far right have been pressing for a mandatory cutoff of young, unwed mothers. Senator Dole said today that he agreed with the President, with the Catholic Church and with the National Governors Association that that's the wrong to go. And I think that's where most of the American people are.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:45 P.M. EDT