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Ted Kennedy on Welfare & Poverty

Democratic Sr Senator (MA)


Welfare reform bill commits legislative child abuse

Bill Clinton promised in 1992 to "end welfare as we know it." But by late 1993, he had all but shelved his plan to reform welfare. Our Minority Whip Newt Gingrich asked me to get together a group of members to draft our own welfare reform bill. The bill we drafted was an integral part of the now famous Contract with America.

When we introduced our bill, the liberals savaged it, calling it cruel, heartless and mean-spirited. We had actually had the audacity to call for TIME LIMITS on welfare for the ABLE-BODIED! Not only that, but we wanted to require them to work or else lose their benefits.

So-called welfare rights groups weren't the only ones who raged against our bill. Senator Ted Kennedy opined, "There is a right way and a wrong way to reform welfare. Punishing children is the wrong way. The Senate is on the brink of committing legislative child abuse."

Despite the opposition, welfare reform passed. After two votes, it was finally signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.

Source: It Takes A Family, by Sen. Rick Santorum, p.131-134 , Apr 30, 2006

Voted YES on instituting National Service as a new social invention.

Congressional Summary:Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act:
    Adds to National and Community Service Act of 1990 (NCSA) purposes:
  1. providing year-round opportunities in service-learning;
  2. involving program participants in emergency and disaster preparedness, relief, and recovery;
  3. increasing service opportunities for retiring professionals;
  4. encouraging service by individuals age 55 or older and continued service by national service alumni;
  5. focusing national service on the areas of national need.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D, MD): [In developing national service over many years] we were not in the business of creating another new social program. What we were in the business of was creating a new social invention. What do I mean by that? In our country, we are known for our technological inventions. But also often overlooked, and sometimes undervalued, is our social inventions.

We created national service to let young people find opportunity to be of service and also to make an important contribution. But not all was rosy. In 2003, when I was the ranking member on the appropriations subcommittee funding national service, they created a debacle. One of their most colossal errors was that they enrolled over 20,000 volunteers and could not afford to pay for it. That is how sloppy they were in their accounting. I called them the "Enron of nonprofits."

And they worked on it. But all that is history. We are going to expand AmeriCorps activity into specialized corps. One, an education corps; another, a health futures corps; another, a veterans corps; and another called opportunity corps. These are not outside of AmeriCorps. They will be subsets because we find this is where compelling human need is and at the same time offers great opportunity for volunteers to do it.

Opponent's argument to vote No:No senators spoke against the amendment.

Reference: Serve America Act/GIVE Act; Bill H.R. 1388 ; vote number 2009-S115 on Mar 26, 2009

Voted NO on welfare block grants.

Replacement of federal welfare guarantee with block grants to the states.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)78; N)21; NV)1
Reference: Conference Report on H.R. 3734; Bill H.R. 3734 ; vote number 1996-262 on Aug 1, 1996

Voted YES on eliminating block grants for food stamps.

Vote to not allow states the option of getting food stamp funds as a block grant administered by the state, rather than as a federal program, if they meet certain criteria.
Reference: Bill S 1956 ; vote number 1996-218 on Jul 23, 1996

Voted NO on allowing state welfare waivers.

Vote on a procedural motion to allow consideration of an amendment to express the Sense of Congress that the president should approve the waivers requested by states that want to implement welfare reform.
Reference: Bill S.1956 ; vote number 1996-208 on Jul 19, 1996

Voted NO on welfare overhaul.

Approval of an overhaul on the federal welfare system.
Status: Bill Passed Y)87; N)12; NV)1
Reference: Contract w/ America (Welfare Refm); Bill H.R. 4 ; vote number 1995-443 on Sep 19, 1995

Establish a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Kennedy co-sponsored the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act

Establishes the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund in the Treasury to promote the development of affordable low-income housing through grants to States and local jurisdictions.

Source: Bill sponsored by 22 Senators 03-S1411 on Jul 15, 2003

Tax credits to promote home ownership in distressed areas.

Kennedy co-sponsored the Community Development Homeownership Tax Credit Act

Amends the Internal Revenue Code to permit a community homeownership tax credit based upon an applicable percentage of each qualified residence's eligible basis. Makes such credit available to residences (including factory built homes) located:

  1. in a census tract with a median gross income not exceeding 80 percent of the greater area or statewide median gross income;
  2. in a rural area;
  3. on an Indian reservation; or
  4. in an area of chronic economic distress.
Prohibits a buyer's income from exceeding 80 percent (70 percent for families of less than three) of the area gross median income and requires owner occupancy.
Source: Bill sponsored by 45 Senators 03-S875 on Apr 10, 2003

Fully fund AmeriCorps.

Kennedy signed a letter from 43 Senators to the President

To: President George W. Bush

Dear President Bush:

We write to express our strong support for AmeriCorps and recognize the leadership you have shown on this issue over the years. We know you agree that AmeriCorps is an outstanding program which has proven successful in addressing our homeland security needs, leveraging volunteers, and improving the quality of services available to a broad range of Americans.

Unfortunately, as you know, the Corporation for National Service officially announced yesterday unprecedented and drastic funding cuts, from 50 to 95 percent in every state. These cuts mean that under the State Competitive funding stream the Corporation will only fund 2,036 volunteers, compared with 11,236 last year. Many states will see their volunteer allocations under the competitive stream drop by as much as 90 percent and 16 states are shut out completely.

In your 2002 State of the Union address, you called for every American to dedicate 4,000 hours to community service throughout their lives. In your 2004 budget request, you proposed increasing the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 50,000 to 75,000. Unfortunately, due to serious errors made by the Corporation, fewer than half this number of Americans will be allowed to serve their country through service.

We should support, not oppose, efforts to encourage more Americans to enter public service. We should do everything in our power to reward the American men and women who have chosen to serve the country and their communities in the hope of meeting the nation's critical education, safety, health, and homeland security needs.

We urge you to request additional funding in the supplemental appropriations bill to ensure that AmeriCorps remains a strong and vital program today and in the future.

Source: Letter from 43 Senators to the President 03-SEN5 on Jun 17, 2003

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Page last updated: Mar 14, 2014