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Statement About Approval of the Family Assistance Act of 1970 by the House Ways and Means Committee

March 05, 1970

THE prompt and favorable action of the House Ways and Means Committee on the administration's proposals for reforming our failing welfare system is most gratifying and encouraging.

I have great confidence in this legislation; I believe it provides the best method for reversing the trend toward greater welfare dependency. I am most happy that the Ways and Means Committee-after conducting its own searching investigation--has reached a similar conclusion.

Very few questions will come before this Congress that are more important than welfare reform. Without a basic, conceptual change in our welfare system, we can expect only that welfare rolls will continue to grow and that costs will inevitably skyrocket. I hope that the members of both parties in both Houses of the Congress will follow the lead of the Ways and Means Committee so that our Nation can avoid that misfortune.

While the initial "start-up" costs of this program are higher than our present welfare costs, I am confident that we can afford this program and that it is consistent with a responsible fiscal policy. I would not support the program unless that were the case. It is my view, in fact, that responsible fiscal policy demands rapid welfare reform, for such reform will enable us to make significant long-run savings. The question is not whether we can afford this legislation, but whether we can afford to go on without it.

A central point of the new program is that only those who are willing to take a job or to enter training are eligible for benefits. In addition, the new payment schedule would be structured to reward those people who take jobs, rather than penalizing them as does the present system. In short, the family assistance program--for the first time--would make welfare a method for putting people back to work, reducing the welfare rolls, and expanding the payrolls of the Nation.

This new program would also remove that element in the present system which encourages fathers to desert their families. In addition, it would give significant assistance to the aged, the blind, and the disabled by establishing for them a national minimum benefit level.

It is often said that nothing in this world is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. In my view, the family assistance program is an idea whose time has come--and the welcome action of the Ways and Means Committee confirms that judgment. Not every Congress has the opportunity to enact a fundamental reform of our basic institutions. The 91st Congress now has that historic opportunity.

Note: On the same day, the White House issued the transcript of a news briefing on the President's family assistance program by George P. Shultz, Secretary of Labor; Dr. Daniel P. Moynihan, Counsellor to the President; and Robert Patricelli, Special Assistant for Urban Affairs, and John G. Veneman, Under Secretary, both of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Richard Nixon, Statement About Approval of the Family Assistance Act of 1970 by the House Ways and Means Committee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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