Federal welfare advocates are gearing up for a fight after the U.S. House of Representatives included a packet of controversial welfare reforms in its budget bill just before Thanksgiving. The changes, which would require a greater proportion of recipients to work and those who do to work longer hours, have drawn fire from a wide swath of bipartisan groups representing state and local governments, who would prefer a measured floor debate. “The place to accomplish a balanced and reasonable reauthorization [of welfare] is not in a budget reconciliation bill,” argued a recent letter from the National Conference of State Legislators. The Senate has not included welfare provisions in its budget bill, but if the House reforms are passed, they could become fodder for horse-trading during budget negotiations, pitted against expenditures for higher-profile programs like Medicaid and food stamps. There’s one hope that advocates are keeping alive: Parliamentary law technically prohibits making policy changes that are unrelated to spending, which means opponents could block changes on procedural grounds. Of the 26 sections pertaining to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) in the House bill, the Congressional Budget Office projects that only seven will have a direct budgetary impact. “Virtually every single part of the TANF part violates the budget act,” said Margy Waller, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a progressive Washington D.C.-based think tank. “And all it takes is one senator to raise a point of order.” (T. McMillan) [12/05/2005]