THE POLITICS AND ETHICS OF WELFARE REAUTHORIZATION
Previous chapters in this book focus either on policy history and analysis, on one hand, or on ethical concerns and church contributions to the welfare debate, on the other hand. In bringing our study of welfare policy up to the present, this chapter addresses both topics together. The major development we might have hoped to investigate in this final chapter turns out to be a nonevent, as the definitive review and reauthorization of the 1996 welfare law (due in 2002) has been delayed for nearly four years as of this writing and is not expected now until at least 2010. Nevertheless, the unfolding of welfare policy debates over these years occasions the following observations and reflections on the levels of politics and ethical concern.
Just as few observers could have predicted the sweeping, even radical nature of the welfare reform of the 1990s, no one expected the utter deadlock over welfare policy that we are experiencing in the first decade of the new millennium. The 1996 welfare reform law technically expired September 30, 2002. Unable to pass a definitive reauthorization bill, Congress maintained the status quo in TANF block grants and eligibility rules by passing a series of stopgap funding measures over the subsequent three and a half years. Through the early months of 2006 there were eleven such extensions. Most of these came on a quarterly basis, renewing TANF without significant alteration for three months at a time, although on two occasions Congress extended the life of current cash welfare arrangements in six-month increments.1 Finally, in February 2006, with Washington’s energies distracted by other pressing issues such as terrorism and the war in Iraq, the decision was made by congressional