Washington President Bush urged Congress on Saturday to give states the freedom to bypass federal regulations as they shape welfare programs and spend federal money to lift the poor from poverty.
With the House beginning debate this week on a version of Bush's plan, the president used his weekly radio address to call for "compassionate welfare reform."
At issue are proposed changes to the 1996 law that overhauled the system by emphasizing steps to move aid recipients from welfare to work.
Bush urged passage of the House bill, saying it will "provide hope and promise, dignity and opportunity to millions of Americans." He noted that since the 1996 law was signed, 5.4 million fewer people 2.8 million of them children live in poverty.
Senate proposals so far do not include the president's request that states have greater flexibility in spending welfare money.
"Today, confusing and conflicting regulations are keeping people from getting help. My proposal would give states the freedom to redesign how federal programs operate in their states," he said.