RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Bob McDonnell, soon to be Republican Mitt Romney's host for a Virginia bus trip, picked up on Romney's disputed claim Wednesday that President Barack Obama had gutted welfare-reform work requirements.

Obama's July directive grants requests from states, including Republican governors, for more flexibility in setting work requirements under welfare, known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. Romney sought greater TANF flexibility in 2005 as Massachusetts' governor.

"You ask those Republican governors and they were not trying to gut the work requirement. They were looking for some federal flexibility," McDonnell said.

Obama's directive in a July 12 letter requires states to more effectively move welfare recipients from welfare to work. It does not repeal or waive the work requirements enacted by Congress and signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton.

For that to happen, state legislatures would have to vote to remove the work requirements and return to welfare as it existed before 1996 without a work mandate, and the White House would have to approve it.

It's a stretch to believe that will happen, particularly in conservative states such as Virginia, which adopted work criteria for welfare two years before the federal law was adopted.

McDonnell said he knew of no welfare waiver request from his administration. He said that because Obama once opposed welfare-work requirements, it's clear Obama's administration would grant far more lenient exemptions from work requirements.

"They intend to grant a far broader exemption from the work requirement, and we just can't have that," McDonnell said, noting that states could lose federal money if the number of recipients who work falls below about half.

"You already have a number of exemptions for people who have physical or mental challenges," McDonnell said. "But to start substituting other experiences for work or schooling or things that aren't work itself — the job — that, to me, is the wrong direction."

McDonnell joins Romney for his bus tour in Virginia on Saturday.