House Republicans Seek To Bar Use Of Welfare Money At Strip Clubs

I honestly had no idea that this was an issue:

House Republicans don’t want Uncle Sam paying for any more lap dances.

A bill that GOP leaders are bringing to the House floor Wednesday would require states to prevent welfare recipients from accessing or spending their benefits at strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores.

Republicans included the proposal in the payroll tax bill the House passed in December, and are bringing it back up for a vote separately as part of a package of bills they want included in a final agreement extending the payroll tax cut and other measures through 2012.

Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), the chief sponsor of the strip-club loophole bill, said in an interview that the legislation was a response to press reports that recipients of benefits under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program were using state-issued debit cards containing the funds for gambling, alcohol and adult entertainment.

“It’s pretty rampant around the country,” Boustany said of the abuses. “This has really eroded the credibility of the TANF program in the eyes of the American taxpayer — a program that has been successful, by and large.


In one well-publicized example, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2010 that California welfare recipients were able to withdraw cash from their state-issued debit cards at more than half of the casinos in the state.

“We have an obligation to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately,” Boustany said.

Melissa Boteach, who manages the anti-poverty campaign at the liberal Center for American Progress, said that while “nobody thinks TANF money should be spent at strip clubs or casinos,” the House GOP focus was misplaced, and the problem overstated.

“It’s a decoy,” she said of the legislation. “It’s not getting at the real issue of what’s going to address poverty.”

This may be true, but it does contain the two things that garner headlines — government spending abuses and strippers.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. sam says:

    Why have legislation at all? They could just have David Vitter checking ids and welfare status at the door.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    Since I thought most people used bills at strip clubs, I wonder how the House Republicans intend to track this.

  3. Even if it were a problem, is it Congress’s place to dictate how various states regulate their welfare programs?

  4. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Yes, clearly this is the sort of job-creation legislation the Republicans got elected in 2010 to enact.

  5. ernieyeball says:

    “We have an obligation to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately,” Boustany said.

    “Just don’t dock our pay!” US Congresscritters

    Married Ohio Family Values Republican Rep. Gets Busted With A Stripper

  6. walt moffett says:

    @Stormy Dragon: If the states are spending Federal money like TANF, the power of the purse prevails.

    Does sound like an election year pander though, which nobody is going to publicly oppose.

  7. Rick Almeida says:

    It seems fraud and abuse like this is inevitable when benefits are carried on debit cards. But I also guess that going back to the proverbial welfare check just allows cash to be used in the same way. Problems with no solutions?

  8. Herb says:

    In other words:

    “I believe people can choose how to spend their money better than the government can. Oh, wait….no, I don’t.”

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    “their money…” Um, Earth to Numbskull, it’s not their money, it’s taxpayer money. We’re talking here about welfare benefits. That would be your money, then, assuming of course you’ve ever worked and paid taxes, which based upon the cognitive impairment evidenced by that comment isn’t too likely.

    In any event, for decades I’ve felt that the voter drones of Zombieland would be well served to see how the erstwhile “poor” actually live. I recall South Central Los Angeles in the mid-1980’s. Coming from New York City what amazed me was that in L.A. there were no high rise projects of which to speak. The riff raff lived in homes. Still do. Not apartments. Real homes. 3 x 2 with backyards and cable TV. Fancy cars. Better than I drove. Flash forward 25 years and in this day and age you’ve got welfare cases with cell phones, iPads, satellite dishes and Xboxes. Then of course a material percentage of them are taking those taxpayer-provided benefits straight to the liquor stores, strip clubs, or to the Indian casinos. Not too shabby.

    Regarding the proposed legislation to which this the blog post makes reference, perhaps it’s akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat, but perhaps not. Unless we’re OK with taking a working class waitress and single mom’s money and literally pissing it down the toilet.

  10. Rob in CT says:

    As some are happy to point out, the waitress & single mom aren’t funding this (they pay FICA, but likely have little or no income tax liability – indeed, I’d expect the waitress to be getting the EITC). I’m funding this (I suspect not very much of it, but there you go).

    The basic truth is this: there will always be those who scam a benifit program or use the benefits poorly.

    In the case of someone who blows their welfare money on strippers… good for the strippers. 😉

  11. JohnMcC says:

    Shows that repubs think this has fallen into the memory-hole:

  12. Tano says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Earth to Numbskull, it’s not their money, it’s taxpayer money. We’re talking here about welfare benefits. That would be your money,

    Well, of course it is their money. It is taxpayer money until we give it to them, then it is their money.

    Just like it is taxpayer money that goes to pay Congressional salaries, but once paid, the money is theirs. Perhaps they should add a provision that no Congresscritter can use their salary money to go to strip clubs…

  13. David M says:


    It is taxpayer money until we give it to them, then it is their money.

    Exactly. I’m not hearing any calls for taxpayers to account for the mortgage interest deduction to prove it wasn’t spent on hookers and blow.

  14. Herb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “Um, Earth to Numbskull, it’s not their money, it’s taxpayer money.”

    Yeah, I figured some genius would come up with that one, but as others have pointed out…it’s wrong. It breaks the basic rules of monetary transactions. Once money changes hands, it changes ownership too. Who’s name is on the check? “Pay to the order of the taxpayer?” I don’t think so.

    It amuses me, though, to see small government freedom types to embrace these arguments about welfare recipients. I think it’s safe to say that hatred of people on welfare trumps their principles…if they have any principles.

  15. Herb says:

    Also, if “money is speech,” don’t welfare recipients have a first amendment right to spend their welfare checks at strip clubs?

  16. anjin-san says:

    @ Tsar Nicholas:

    You must be a pretty miserable SOB to have such a desperate need to look down on people. Are you really as pathetic as you sound?