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Congressman Bruce Westerman Speaks In Support of Proposed FY2016 House Budget

March 24, 2015

Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) spoke Tuesday (March 24) on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of the proposed FY2016 House Budget. His full remarks are below:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, Mr. Chairman for your leadership.

Americans know this country was built on a strong work ethic. This budget provides a framework to create projects for able-bodied, working age adults receiving federal benefit.

Some may ask, why work requirements? In 1996, President Clinton – a fellow Arkansan from my hometown of Hot Springs but from across the aisle – said, “Today we are taking a historic chance to make welfare what it is meant to be – a second chance, not a way of life.”

The goal of work force requirements on able-bodied, working age adults is to give Americans a hand up, not a hand out. Mr. Speaker, we should be concerned about the negative effects these federal benefit programs are having on our American work ethic when we review the maximum an individual can earn and still receive government assistance under some programs, which according to the U.S. department of Health and Human Services, is only $1,000. The CATO Institute reports that in 39 states, individuals can make more on government assistance than by working an $8 per hour job. In six states, government benefits pay more than a $12 per hour job. In eight states, government assistance pays more than the average salary of an American teacher.

In my home state, where Medicaid expansion was accepted, 40% of the able-bodied, working age adults receiving 100%-funded Medicaid have zero income. By adding work force requirement requirements for able-bodied working age adults, in the Medicaid population alone this budget establishes a blueprint for work requirements that will result in savings by 2022 of up to $376 billion federally with an additional $170 billion saved at the state level.

President Franklin Roosevelt made clear in a 1935 address to Congress that these programs were not intended to be an entitlement, but a temporary aid to those in need. He said, “The lessons of history confirmed by the evidence immediately before me show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the ideals of America. Work must be found for able-bodied, destitute workers.”

The principles that President Clinton and President Roosevelt before him promoted are more important now than ever before as we find ourselves in a fiscal crisis. President Clinton reminded us in 1996 that this is not the end of welfare reform, this is the beginning. We all have to assume responsibility.

This budget incentivizes work, not dependence. It reduces spending growth instead of growing government. This budget moves us in the right direction. I encourage my friends on both sides of the aisle to strengthen America by voting for this balanced budget for a stronger working America.