Welfare Reform, Round 3

With Senate passage of a welfare-reform bill Tuesday, President Clinton must decide once again whether to fulfill his promise to "end welfare as we know it." He has vetoed two previous attempts, one after he had said he would sign the bill.

Mr. Clinton has been coy about whether he will sign this one. Much depends on whether Congress sends him a bill closer to the Senate version or the House's more conservative approach. Administration officials have sent mixed messages about a veto.

Both bills would basically turn welfare over to the states, a move we support. Heads of recipient households would be required to work after two years, and families would have a lifetime limit of five years of benefits.

The Senate bill preserves the poor's Medicaid eligibility and federal food-stamp guarantees, both sought by the White House. Like the House measure, it would deny welfare benefits to legal immigrants. Such immigrants are not supposed to receive visas in the first place if they do not have a job or financial sponsorship. It's time the federal government really enforced these provisions.

The Senate version is probably as close as House Republicans and the White House can get to each other's position. We urge congressional conferees to accept the Senate bill, and President Clinton to sign it. Even so, we expect experience to show that further fine-tuning will be needed.

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