Two who opposed welfare bill leave Clinton administration Department of Health and Human Services loses Edelman, Bane

September 12, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Two top Clinton administration officials responsible for welfare policy resigned yesterday, saying they could not support the bill President Clinton signed.

The resignations come as states struggle to sort out how to implement a bill that means more state control over welfare programs, less federal money and greater expectations to put people to work.

They also add to the appearance of a liberal exodus from the Department of Health and Human Services as the administration moderates social policy.

One of those who resigned, Assistant Secretary Peter Edelman, a friend of Clinton and husband of Marian Wright Edelman, director of the Children's Defense Fund, will return to teaching at Georgetown Law School. Noting his more than 30 years of working to reduce poverty, Edelman said, "I believe the recently enacted welfare bill goes in the opposite direction." His wife has also denounced the bill and Clinton for signing it.

The other resignation was by Assistant Secretary Mary Jo Bane, whom Clinton recruited to help design his own ill-fated welfare plan. She will return to Harvard University.

Bane, who earlier this week met with state human services officials to explain the welfare bill, told her staff that she could not stay in the job because of "my deep concerns about the welfare bill."

Both will leave Sept. 28 and be replaced with people already on the staff. Wendell Primus, another HHS official, also resigned last month in protest of the welfare bill. Last year, David Ellwood, who came in with Bane to design the Clinton welfare plan, left the administration to go back to Harvard.

The recent resignations are casualties of a war within the Clinton administration over whether to support a bill that requires people to work for benefits, sets time limits on welfare, limits money for social services and food aid, and denies a whole range of benefits to legal noncitizens.

Clinton, who had promised voters in 1992 a welfare overhaul, signed the Republican plan last month and promised to soften food stamp cuts and restrictions on legal immigrants.

But administration studies indicated that the bill could put about 1 million more children into poverty.

In political and policy circles, the departures of the HHS officials feed into the president's image as a moderate Democrat, said R. Kent Weaver, a political analyst at the centrist Brookings Institution. "He can't trumpet it very loudly because of the liberals who are planning to vote for him, rather reluctantly."

Rep. E. Clay Shaw of Florida, a key architect of the welfare bill, said that he was disappointed to learn of the resignations and that he had enjoyed working with Bane. But he said of the bill: "The rescue mission has begun."

States are trying to make the law work before it has to go into effect in July. And officials representing governors and state welfare officials say the timing is bad for this much change in the administration.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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