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"As Republicans near the finish line on a long-sought tax overhaul, President Donald Trump has committed them to taking up a welfare-revamp fight next. Mr. Trump has repeatedly said he is interested in kick-starting a debate around means-tested social programs, with allies seeing significant political rewards from taking up the issue even without a clear-cut goal...The president didn’t offer specifics about which of the dozens of welfare programs he was seeking to change, or how. But congressional Republicans who have been pushing him for months to pursue the issue have proposed layering tougher work requirements on beneficiaries of programs such as food stamps, which are used by around 43 million Americans, and the cash benefit known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is received by around 3.5 million people. Such proposals have been floated in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan, which included a broader call to review the ways in which welfare programs interact, as well as bills from lawmakers such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), who also has proposed tallying spending on all welfare programs...Democratic lawmakers have indicated they are ready for a fight, in which they will argue proposals to change assistance programs are a sign of misplaced priorities by Republicans who favored the rich in the tax overhaul...The president’s budget, expected in February, could include further details about his aims on a welfare overhaul and outline a cross-government approach, a senior administration official said. From there, the president would likely support any bill the GOP caucus in the House could agree to, the official indicated, and hope that the Senate was willing to pursue it. In looking afresh at safety-net programs, the administration would face big questions, including which programs to deem as “welfare” and which beneficiaries to target for cuts or additional requirements. Some of the programs with the smallest political constituencies, such as state grants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, present few official savings in government spending because they are already capped. By contrast, large programs, such as unemployment compensation or food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, could trigger bigger political fights."

Posted December 5th, 2017