The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft As Attorney General of the United States: Part II

Poor families

Ashcroft repeatedly vetoed funds appropriated to assist the state’s most vulnerable families - even when such vetoes meant foregoing badly needed infusions of federal financial assistance. For example, in 1986 Ashcroft vetoed a $2.5 million appropriation aimed at increasing benefits to poor families on public assistance. (Veto Letter on HB 1011, 6/27/86) This veto, which saved about $975,000 in state funds, caused the state to lose $1.5 million in federal assistance. And, as Carol Wehrli, an advocate for the state’s poor pointed out, the cut "cost more in terms of lost human potential and family stability." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 3, 1986.)

That same year, Ashcroft vetoed $600,000 in emergency assistance funds to assist families with children who were homeless or on the verge of eviction. (Veto Letter on HB1011 6/27/86.) This veto involved only $300,000 in state funds, which would have been matched by an equal amount of federal funds. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 3, 1986). At the time of the veto, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare stated that Ashcroft’s veto was an illustration of the "state’s continued indifference to the plight of the homeless in the state." Springfield News-Leader (June 21, 1986

In 1987, in another move that disadvantaged poor families, Ashcroft vetoed $1.27 million to provide additional subsidized day care slots for poor children. (Veto Letter for HB11 6/29/87). The approximately 600-700 slots were intended primarily for the children of the working poor and poor parents on welfare who were working in low-paying jobs or attending job training or educational programs. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 12, 1987). Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Wilson called this veto "one of the meanest vetoes I saw." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (June 30, 1987).

Despite Ashcroft’s record on refusing to provide adequate funding for the programs and services needed by vulnerable families and children, President George Bush in 1992 appointed Ashcroft to head a new commission on America’s urban families. At the time, an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch stated, "Mr. Ashcroft’s only personal contribution to the debate on urban families has been to place unrealistic responsibilities on those who need assistance, demanding that they solve their own problems with little or no state help." The editorial concluded with this paragraph:

Why would the president want the proposed families commission to be headed by a governor whose state ranks low in spending on family needs? Perhaps Mr. Ashcroft’s attempts to solve complex social problems on the cheap is what recommended him to Mr. Bush. Or, worse, perhaps Mr. Bush is no more serious than Mr. Ashcroft has been about tackling the problems facing urban families. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (March 9, 1992).

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