Democrats accused Republicans Wednesday of being "mean-spirited" and attacking "the most vulnerable people in society" for introducing a bill that would ban welfare recipients from withdrawing benefits from ATMs in liquor stores, casinos, and strip clubs.
The bill — the Welfare Integrity Now for Children and Families Act of 2011 — would require states receiving federal welfare grants to prevent funds from being withdrawn at liquor stores, strip clubs, and casinos.
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) who introduced the bill, pointed to a number of news reports from around the country documenting millions of dollars in welfare benefits being withdrawn from such establishments.
For example, a King 5 investigation in Seattle found that 13,000 of Washington state's welfare recipients withdrew an estimated $2 million total from casinos in 2010. The money was withdrawn from ATMs using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
But House Democrats assailed the bill as inconsequential and harmful to those on benefits.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D- Wis.) accused Republicans of being "mean-spirited" and "berating people of low income."
"I think its fairly cynical in these tough economic times … that republicans want to impose even more barriers on poor people and their much-needed benefits," Moore said.
And Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.) said the bill would harm low-income Americans stuck in what she called "food deserts."
"There are areas all over this country, rural and urban, where they don't have grocery stores. All they have are these liquor stores, but they serve other products, too. They serve milk. They serve bread. They serve meats. […] I would ask you to take a real close look at this. These small businesses are very important all over this country."
The bill was passed 395 to 26.