New Romney ad hits Obama on welfare

President Obama speaks at a campaign fundraiser in Stamford, Conn., Monday, Aug., 6, 2012. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

(CBS News) In a new television ad, Mitt Romney challenges President Obama on a new directive that allows states to tailor their work requirements for welfare recipients.

The new ad invokes President Clinton who passed "bipartisan" changes to the welfare system in 1996 that required recipients to look for work or participate in job training programs.

"Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check," the narrator says.

The ad attempts to paint Mr. Obama as the "candidate of big government of liberal policies and of a belief that the government does things best," Romney spokesperson Ryan Williams told CBSNews.com Tuesday morning.

The president's executive order issued in July gives states a waiver relating to the work requirements, allowing states to "test alternative and innovative strategies" to put people to work.

Republicans, including Romney, slammed the president for gutting the work requirements. The conservative Heritage Foundation says the president's actions make the work requirements "essentially meaningless."

But the Obama administration shot back. In a letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Republicans in Congress, she said, "No policy which undercuts that goal or waters down work requirements will be considered or approved."

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Meantime, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney was one of more than two dozen Republican governors who wrote a letter to Republican Congressional leaders in 2005 to ask for increased flexibility in the work requirements.

"Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work," the letter read.

The Romney campaign argues that what Romney and the Republican governors asked for was different than the president's actions.

"They were talking about flexibility," Williams said. "Governor Romney was not asking for work requirements to be changed."

A memo sent to reporters by the Romney campaign said that as Massachusetts governor, "Romney vetoed efforts to weaken work requirements and he pressed repeatedly to instead strengthen them and bring them in line with federal standards."

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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