Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Options: Democrats Offering Two Welfare Reform Plans in Hope of Luring Some in Gop

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Options: Democrats Offering Two Welfare Reform Plans in Hope of Luring Some in Gop

Article excerpt

DEMOCRATS WILL MOVE from defense to offense in the welfare reform debate next week, offering up two alternatives that would retain the federal guarantee of aid to all who are poor enough to qualify.

"They both emphasize work; they both are better for children," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo. "And they both try to give flexibility to the states to deal with problems and help people be more self-sufficient."

But the Democrats'gm proposals stop short of the GOP plan to roll nutrition, child care and cash welfare programs into block grants that would be administered by the states, Gephardt said.

"The worry with block grants is that if you give the states a lump sum and the economy goes awry, a lot of people could be hurt," Gephardt said.

The fact that the Democrats are offering two alternatives, rather than unifying behind one approach, emphasizes the divisions within the party about just how far the nation should go to revise its welfare programs.

Gephardt said only one of the two Democratic bills - a version sponsored by Rep. Nathan Deal, D-Ga. - would impose a time limit on the receipt of welfare assistance.

The second version, sponsored by Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Ha., would not.

Mink's proposal is unlikely to draw support beyond party ranks. But party leaders hope to use Deal's to win support from moderate Republicans, a party strategist said.

"Conservative Democrats are reaching out to Republicans to talk about their plan in the hopes of playing on moderate Republican fears" about some of the harsher provisions of the GOP plan, said the strategist, who requested anonymity.

Democrats may also try to woo anti-abortion Republicans who fear the GOP proposal to deny welfare payments to unwed teen-age mothers could push more teens to get abortions.

The House is expected to begin preliminary wrangling Tuesday over the rules that will govern the welfare debate. Discussion is scheduled to begin in earnest on Wednesday. …

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