ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL -- Mitt Romney's campaign opened a new front in its battle to define President Obama as far to the left of even Democrats like Bill Clinton, with the presumptive GOP nominee accusing the president of trying to "reverse" welfare reform.
The GOP contender, whose campaign resurfaced this issue of welfare reform this morning with a new television ad and a conference call, cast the Clinton era welfare reform effort, which tied welfare payments to work, a "great accomplishment," and praised the value of a job as strengthening the American economy and American people.
In the next breath, he called out President Obama for what he claimed was an attempt to gut the work requirement.
"I hope you understand that President Obama in just the last few days has tried to reverse that accomplishment by taking the work requirement out of welfare," Romney told a crowd gathered on a factory floor here. "That is wrong. If I’m president, I’ll put work back in welfare.”
The Romney campaign is charging that a waiver issued by the Department of Health and Human Services would exempt states from the work requirements contained in the law; the memo at issue stipulates that a waiver only be granted if the state offers a substitute that achieves the same work goals.
Romney also defended his own work on welfare reform as Governor of Massachusetts, already a target for Democrats.
"We must include more work in welfare. When I was governor of my state, I fought time and again. My legislature passed a bill removing the work requirements at the level we’d had in the past. I vetoed that and then fought time and again to get more work requirements, to raise the work requirements in my state, not because I don’t think people who need help should be helped," Romney said. "I very much agree that those who are seriously disabled or are unable to work need to have help of the rest of us, but those who can work ought to have the opportunity for a good job, and if they’re getting state assistance, they ought to have the requirement for a good job. We will end a culture dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work.”
In his first public appearance since Sunday's shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Romney also set politics aside at the top of his remarks to call for a moment of silence for the victims.
"I'd like to have a moment of silence to honor the people who lost their lives in Wisconsin in that tragic, tragic shooting at the Sikh temple. The tragedy is even more profound because the Sikh religion and the Sikh people are such peaceful, loving individuals," Romney said. "And I think its also more tragic because the shooter was apparently someone who was motivated by hate. Hate based on race. Hate based on religion. For all those reasons, this is something that touches us very deeply."