WASHINGTON -- Moving a step closer to a long-delayed and potentially contentious debate over federal welfare reform, Senate Republicans yesterday peeled away a set of Democratic proposals designed to blunt the impact of the GOP's own, more stringent proposals.
By a near-solid party line 54-45 vote, the Senate rejected a series of Democrat-backed amendments to the welfare package sponsored by Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.
And Mr. Dole suggested that Republicans are near agreement NTC on an alternative. Although united as rarely before on many issues, Senate Republicans have had difficulty finding common ground on this issue -- especially the question of how severely to treat welfare mothers.
The Democrats' proposal would have set a five-year time limit for single mothers receiving welfare payments benefits, but would have granted recipients a package of benefits that included child care, education, training and jobs.
In two days of impassioned floor debates, the Democrats argued that the GOP plan amounted to heartless posturing inspired by presidential politics and charged that it would put millions of poor women and their children at risk.
"We put parents in jail for leaving their children alone at home," said Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia. "Why in welfare reform shouldn't child care be absolutely a requirement? Yes, it costs more, but you can't have work without child care."
The Dole-sponsored plan also calls for a five-year limit on welfare payments, but it would replace the federal payments with block grants placing greater authority in state legislatures over who gets welfare and the amount of their benefits.