Rep. Thomas J. Downey (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on public assistance, said prospects look good for a Democratic bill to overhaul the nation's welfare program for families with dependent children. The bill is expected to go to the House Rules Committee on Tuesday and to the House floor Wednesday.
The bill would authorize mandatory new state training and remedial education programs to get welfare mothers onto payrolls and also would expand benefits. The benefit changes include mandating welfare aid in all states to families where the father is present in the home but unemployed, increasing federal matching rates for states that raise benefits, and increasing the income a welfare client may earn without loss of welfare benefits.
Republicans and conservative Democrats say the benefit increases would make it more attractive for many welfare clients to stay on welfare than to seek work. When the bill reaches the House floor, opponents may seek to substitute a less costly GOP plan without major benefit increases or some still-to-be-drafted compromise.
Ways and Means Democrats have agreed to raise $1.7 billion to fund the Democratic version of the welfare bill by extending debt-collection provisions for people who default on student loans and similar debts and by reducing the dependent-care deduction for families with over $65,000 in income, among other things.