. Congressional Attacks on Welfare, 1980–2004

Ellen Reese

in Backlash against Welfare Mothers

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780520244610
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520938717 | DOI:
. Congressional Attacks on Welfare, 1980–2004

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This chapter explores the forces shaping the contemporary welfare backlash that led to the passage of 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) and continues to shape Congressional debates about its reauthorization. It argues that attacks on welfare mothers resonated strongly with the public, especially white voters, because they appealed to antitax sentiments, racial resentments, traditional “family values,” and rising expectations that poor mothers work. Proposals to deny benefits to legal immigrants passed, despite the fact that most Americans opposed them. Appealing to nativist sentiments, anti-immigrant groups and right-wing think tanks urged Congress to adopt these policies. A coalition of Christian Right groups and right-wing think tanks championed “pro-family” and “pro-church” welfare policies in the 1990s. They wielded considerable influence over the contents of PRWORA. Right-wing Republicans sought more far-reaching reforms than other politicians were willing to support, stalling the passage of welfare reform for several years.

Keywords: welfare backlash; PRWORA; Congressional debates; racial resentments; family values; welfare mothers; Christian Right; Right-wing Republicans; welfare policies

Chapter.  10707 words. 

Subjects: Marriage and the Family

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