NC House Speaker under fire for suggesting state 'divide and conquer' welfare recipents

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October 13, 2011

GOP House Speaker Thom Tillis

RALEIGH, North Carolina: Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives Thom Tillis is facing a barrage of criticism following comments he made last week at a town meeting where he suggested the state "find a way to divide and conquer" citizens on welfare. Tillis responded yesterday, saying he made a "poor choice of words" but stood by other comments he made, including the possibility of drug-testing those receiving public assistance as well as all government workers.[1]

At the meeting in question, Tillis said tight budgets necessitate difficult decisions. He went on to compare welfare for "a woman in a wheelchair" to that for an unmarried mother:

"At some point, we'll have to say, 'First kid, we'll give you a pass. Second, third or fourth kid, you're on your own. What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance. We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice in her condition that needs help and we should help.

And we need to get those folks to look down at those people who choose to get into a position that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point, 'You're on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies but we're not going to take care of you.'"[2]

Tillis was first elected in 2006 and has served as Speaker of the House since 2011.

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