The Truth-O-Meter Says:

While in the Illinois Senate, Barack Obama passed legislation moving people "from welfare to jobs."

Michelle Obama on Monday, August 25th, 2008 in Denver

Obama sponsored state-level welfare law

Michelle Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 25, 2008, dwelling largely on a personal portrait of her home life with Barack Obama and her upbringing in a working-class family on Chicago's South Side.

She concluded her speech with a call to civic duty.

"I believe that each of us — no matter what our age or background or walk of life — each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation. It's a belief Barack shares — a belief at the heart of his life's work. ...

"It's what he did in the Illinois Senate, moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard- working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work."

Here, we'll look at a claim we checked previously , that Obama moved people from welfare to work.

The claim goes back to his days as a state senator in the Illinois legislature. President Bill Clinton and Congress significantly overhauled welfare in 1996, requiring recipients to work and setting time limits on benefits. The states in turn had to change their laws to meet the new federal requirements.

In 1997, Obama signed up as a chief co-sponsor (one of five in the Senate) on Illinois' version of the legislation.

But the Illinois governor at the time, Republican Jim Edgar, got a lot of credit as well. Press reports from the time referred to the plan as "the Edgar plan."

This isn't the first time Obama has referred to Illinois laws as if he passed them singlehandedly .

Also, in floor remarks from the time, Obama expressed less than full support for the federal legislation. He was particularly concerned that people removed from welfare would be able to receive training so they could earn a living wage.

"I am not a defender of the status quo with respect to welfare," Obama said on the Illinois Senate floor. "Having said that, I probably would not have supported the federal legislation, because I think it had some problems. But I'm a strong believer in making lemonade out of lemons. ... I think this is a good start, and I urge support of this bill."

Nevertheless, the legislation's primary role was welfare reform, and the legislative record shows that Obama had a leadership role in getting it passed. For these reasons, we find Obama's claim Mostly True.

About this statement:

Published: Monday, August 25th, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Subjects: Poverty, Workers


Illinois Legislature, 90th General Assembly, Summary of HB0204 , became law June 19, 1997

Illinois Legislature, 90th General Assembly, Regular Session Senate Transcript , pages 42 to 45, May 31, 1997

New Yorker, Making It (Barack Obama profile) , July 21, 2008

Chicago Sun-Times, "State welfare reform OKd; Proposal won't protect immigrants," June 1, 1997

Chicago Sun-Times, "Edgar signs welfare reform bill; New program replaces AFDC," June 20, 1997


Written by: Angie Drobnic Holan
Researched by: Angie Drobnic Holan
Edited by: Amy Hollyfield

How to contact us:

We want to hear your suggestions and comments.

For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.

For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.

Browse The Truth-O-MeterTM: