LEWISTON — Maine’s 2nd District U.S. congressman said Thursday he wants to make sure those convicted of federal terrorism crimes are not allowed to receive welfare benefits after they have served their prison sentences.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, said current law allows some categories of terrorist criminals to apply for and receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, upon leaving prison.

During a news conference Thursday at his local office on Lisbon Street, Poliquin unveiled a federal bill he said would change that.

“What it is is a common-sense closing of a loophole,” Poliquin said, noting that those convicted of violent terrorism-related acts are already prohibited from receiving SNAP benefits under federal law. His bill would also have that prohibition apply to convicted accomplices of violent terrorists.

“What we are talking about are the most brutal acts of terror in America, the most violent acts — and when those individuals leave prison, I don’t think we should be providing them welfare,” Poliquin said.  

He said several suspects are being prosecuted in the Boston Marathon terror attack of 2013. He said the suspect who provided the firearms to the individuals involved in the San Bernardino, Calif., terror attack last fall could be eligible for SNAP benefits if he is convicted and serves a prison sentence.

Democratic critics said Poliquin’s proposal was an attempt to create a “manufactured crisis” by hitting talking points on both terrorism and welfare reform.

“Bruce Poliquin’s bill is nothing more than a sideshow circus act intended to create a manufactured crisis and score political points,” said Bryan Lesswing, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a prepared statement. “How can Mainers trust Bruce to seriously take down the terrorists when he wastes his time instead fighting these imaginary battles?”


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