Democrats Call Accord Claims on Welfare Reform Premature

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Welfare reform could be revised and reintroduced as early as two weeks from now, Republican congressional leaders and governors said yesterday.

Final floor votes could begin in late April.

But while the Clinton administration signaled cautious optimism that there could be bipartisan agreement on this issue, Democratic governors yesterday warned that they have not agreed to any "final draft" of welfare or Medicaid reform.

"Bipartisan means two parties, not Republican governors and Republican legislators deciding things," Florida's Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles said in a statement.

In January, the nation's governors unanimously approved certain changes for welfare and Medicaid reform. Those changes are now being incorporated into legislation.

In addition yesterday, GOP sources said that an unreleased Congressional Budget Office study shows that welfare reform, incorporating the governors' revisions, would be no more effective than current law in requiring welfare recipients to work.

"Although the bill says there must be a work participation rate of 50 percent by 2002, because of a loophole in the calculation of the work participation rate, no more people will be working in 2002 than there are today. . . . The loophole is that big," said the source, who asked not to be identified.

CBO analysis of the revised welfare reform bill has not been released and a CBO spokesman could not immediately answer questions about the study.

Virtually all members of Congress had insisted that welfare reform have tougher work requirements.

At a news conference yesterday, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican and several GOP governors said "real progress is being made" and that welfare reform would be introduced on March 25. …