Welfare “Reform” Might Be the Next Big Republican Push

Monica Winston adjusts to her tent in a tent city set up in San Diego. A Hepatitis A outbreak is one of the reasons the tent city was created.John Gastaldo via ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

In theory, the budget reconciliation process was intended to be used for passing budgets. But you only get one of them per year, and Republicans used reconciliation in 2017 for health care and in 2018 for taxes. That’s why they’re now stuck needing some Democratic votes for a bipartisan budget resolution. But what about next year? Will Republicans use the 2019 reconciliation process for the 2019 budget, or will they try to pass a two-year budget resolution that would free up reconciliation for something else? Yuval Levin has some ideas:

Both President Trump and Speaker Ryan have talked at various points lately about wanting to take up welfare reform….This question of whether there will be a 2019 reconciliation bill is crucial to the question of the 2018 Republican agenda because it would establish the boundaries of the possible. If they do pass a reconciliation bill, Republicans would probably use it to create room for a party-line welfare-reform effort. This would likely amount to a proposal for devolving funding and design flexibility over some of the major federal welfare programs to the states while attaching some work requirements to most of them.

I agree. Levin is a little surprised that with tax reform out of the way, Republicans seem at sea about what to do next. I’m less surprised, since the Republican Party has basically been the anti-tax party for years, with little more truly propelling them forward. But welfare “reform” could be the ticket. From Donald Trump’s viewpoint, it helps him with his working-class white base, which has always hated welfare because they think it’s just free money for lazy black people. From the viewpoint of fiscal conservatives who aren’t especially energized by racial animus, it’s a way of cutting spending. And for the neocon wing, perhaps it’s a way of freeing up some dollars for the military. Like tax reform—and unlike health care—it’s something that has a chance of bringing together every wing of the party.

Will Republicans do this? Like Levin, I don’t know. If Democrats make the budget process painful and refuse to pass a two-year resolution, Republicans might surrender and just use next year’s budget reconciliation process for the budget. But here’s a prediction: if Republicans do decide to go after welfare, they’ll target the parts of it that are disproportionately used by blacks and Hispanics. I don’t know what those are, but I’ll check into it later and come up with a more specific prediction.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest