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IgnatiusInsight.com Interview with Pennsylvania Sen.
Rick Santorum | Valerie Schmalz | June 29, 2005
Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum is up for re-election in November,
2006, and is likely to face Pennsylvania Democrat and Roman Catholic, Bob
Casey Jr., son of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey. Early polls
showed Santorum trailing Casey but more recent surveys show the gap closing.
elected to the U.S. Senate in November, 1994, Santorum, 46, is a practicing
Catholic, married with six children. He is the third ranking Republican
in the partys Senate leadership, serving as Republican Conference
Chairman. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990 at
the age of 32. For more information, visit his
Senate website or his
IgnatiusInsight.com requested an interview with Santorums likely opponent
Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob
Casey Jr., and hopes to offer one soon.
IgnatiusInsight.com interviewed Sen. Santorum by phone in early June, after
the U.S. Senate reached a compromise on the filibuster of judicial nominees,
and after the death of Terri Schiavo in April. Sen. Santorum backed the
bill that was intended to require a new hearing in the facts of Terris
case and visited with the Schindler family during Terris last days
because he was in Florida on unrelated business. He was instrumental in
passage of the Infants Born Alive legislation, which requires medical and
clinic personnel to save babies born alive through abortion. He is also
very supportive of so-called Snowflakes programs, which allow infertile
couples to "adopt" frozen embryos by having them placed in the
adoptive mothers womb where they then develop and are born.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What do you think are the top three issues currently
facing the country?
Sen. Santorum: First and foremost are national security issues. The
war on terror and making our country safe . . . is still the highest priority; that is unfinished
I think, in this country, we tend to see the fact weve had no terrorist
incidents in a few years and think the problem has abated. I think thats
a false sense of security. I think there are a lot of people out there who
still want to do us a lot of harm and we have to be very, very vigilant.
Second, I thinkI would argueis really health care. I want tie
it into some of the concerns people are having with the economy, but I think
a lot of it is focused on the rising cost of health care and the insecurity
that people have with respect to health care. Ive focused a lot of
my time and energy on what we can do to reduce the cost of health care,
with things like medical liability reform and, on the other side, things
like health savings accounts. Ive introduced legislation to do things
on giving tax incentives to people who dont have insurance by giving
them tax credits, refundable tax credits, and other things to help them
purchase health care. So, there are many things that were working
on in the area of trying to make health care more affordable and accessible,
while at the same time increasing quality.
For me the other areathere are so many, its hard to say a top
threebut I would say strengthening the family. I think thats
a part of our agenda that I dont think most people talk about, but
to me its important that we strengthen the bedrock of our society.
I think we tend to underestimate how important strong families are to a
strong country. In fact, Ive written a book about that, a whole variety
of different policy proposals on how we can strengthen the traditional family
in America and thereby strengthen our society.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Would you explain your anti-poverty agenda, including
the Senate Republican Poverty Alleviation Agenda [info available here
in PDF format]?
Sen. Santorum: I fold the anti poverty agenda into this whole idea of
strengthening the family because, to me, youre going to deal with
a lot of issues related to poverty if you can strengthen marriage and strengthen
traditional families. If you look at the poverty rates among married couples,
its in the low single digits. Whereas if you look at it among single
head of households its four, five, or six times the rate it is among
married households. The anti-poverty agenda includes things that are family-strengthening
activities and marriage-promoting activities, but it goes beyond that.
my bookthe name of the book is It
a FamilyI lay out a whole host of ideas that deal with different
aspects of family life, economics as well as the culture, education, and
social connectednessall of which are important, particularly to those
at the lower end of the economic strata. The reason is, theyre the
ones who are most impacted by all of these macro-level ideas. So what we
need to do is focus our overall policy in these areas on how we can affect
them and the quality of their lives.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Would you explain your support of Social Security private
Sen. Santorum: To me, its consistent with all the other things
Im working on, with the idea of promoting ownership and promoting
stable, healthy families. For example, Ive put forward a proposal
development accounts, which are matched savings accounts for low income
individuals to help them purchase a home or start a small business or to
get an education. Ive proposed something called Kids
Save, which is a proposal that every child born in America gets a $500
check from the federal government in a savings account that they cant
touch until they reach the age of 21. If you are lower income you can get
an additional $500 a yearif you match it, if you can put money in
there to match it, for up to $500 a year. So, its a way to give to
those who have not achieved economic success and a way for their children
to learn economic literacyto understand the power of compound interest,
to understand the power of investment. All of those things are vitally importantplus,
it gives them a little nest egg to be able to use for later in life, whether
its for a college education, or buying a home, or dealing with the
sort of big events in someones life to help them climb the ladder
What I say about Social Security personal accounts is just a continuation
of that philosophy. Instead of having a system that is increasingly going
to cost more and more money while recipients are going to get less and less
from it because of the demographics of our society, this is an opportunity
for younger workersinstead of paying 12.4 percent or more in the future
to the federal government and getting a one percent or less rate of return
on their moneyfor them to do better. This is a way for them not only
to get a better rate of return on their money but also to own something
and to be able to have a nest egg they can use to retire but also to fund
the next generation.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you think your interest in thisI know this
fits in with your entire philosophybut because you have young children
who are going to inherit this system, do you think that makes you think
about the system a little more?
Sen. Santorum: I probably think about families and the future more than
most. And, I think the fact is, Im a Dad and I see the challenges
that fathers and mothers have in raising children in the world today. Im
probably more tuned into that than most members of the United States Senate.
I guess I would say that Im proud of the fact that I probably work
on legislation that has more long-term impact than most members do.
IgnatiusInsight.com: You recently said (and you made the news saying it)
that you were starting to question the death penalty, particularly with
the bishops new push against it.
Sen. Santorum: That wasnt why I was rethinking the death penalty.
Actually, Ive been rethinking the death penalty for quite some time,
ever since a lot of evidence came out about DNA testing and related issues.
It sort of wraps more into the concern I have for the casual nature in which
we treat life in this country.
Were having a debate now on embryonic stem cells and how we see the
human embryo as sort of research matter. And we sort of dehumanize humans.
Obviously an embryo is guiltless and has done nothing to offend anyone or
harm anybody and that is fundamentally different than an individual who
has greatly offended the laws of this country, violated the laws of this
country and is a threator a potential threatto the country and
to individuals in this country. There are fundamental differences there.
However, it still is a little bit of a coarsening of our society when we
allow people to die. And its my feeling that it is only in the most
extreme circumstances, where someone is truly a continuing threat to society,
should the death penalty be used. And I think thats where I would
draw the line. I think, in the past, we probably drew the line a little
too much in favor of the death penalty and I would certainly seek to limit
IgnatiusInsight.com: You are strongly pro-life. Can you summarize why you
Sen. Santorum: I believe in the dignity of every human person. We are
a creation of the Creator and we all have a human dignity that is unique
and that should be respected and I think the Constitution speaks to that.
I think we have turned our back on the Constitution, weve turned our
back on our Judeo-Christian heritage, and weve turned our back on
the natural law by somehow asserting the power of the majority over the
weakness of the minority. And the minority in this case are people who are
in the womb, who are in a petri dish, or are in a state of suspended animation
and who cannot speak for themselves. And to me that is a sign of a decay
in our society that we put our demands and our needs and our selfish wants
over the rightsthe life rightsof one of our brothers and sisters.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What do you think about the recent compromise ending
the filibuster that was obstructing the appointment of the Presidents
Sen. Santorum: I strongly believe the president has the prerogative
under the Constitution to appoint qualified people to the judiciary and
historically there has never been an ideological litmus test applied to
those nominees. The test has always been the qualifications, the temperament,
and the ability of that judge to perform the duties of a judge. Which is
to apply the facts to the law and follow the law as it has been dictated.
Thats the traditional role of a judge and if we have judges who do
that I dont really care if theyre liberal or conservative. But
now were saying that judges are actually more than thattheyre
policymakers and well only allow judges to go on the court who agree
with us on a policy basis. I think thats a very dangerous thing for
our courts. Its a politicization of the judiciary and weve seen,
in fact, that people now on the court sort of see that as part of their
license nowto enact laws under the guise of a judicial decision. And
I think thats a very dangerous thing and I think this debate has highlighted
IgnatiusInsight.com: A lot of people think the Terri Schiavo situation was
a pretty good example of that politicization of the courts.
Sen. Santorum: It was an excellent example. Here you have a judge and
a series of judgesbecause the appellate judges went along with itwho
thumbed their noses at the Congress. The Congress was very specific as to
why it was passing this law and it was crystal clear. You dont come
backfor the first time in the history of the United States Senatefor
an extraordinary session to pass a law to say that the courts shall review
this case de nova, (in other words, have a new hearing), and then
a district court judge in Florida just thumbs his nose and says, "Oh,
Im not going to do that. Im not going to have a new hearing."
Thats a remarkable feat of judicial fiat and usurpation of the power
of the Congress and I think it was wrong, I think the judge was completely
out of line. I know people have gotten upset when weve made calls
for that judge to be held accountable, but the bottom line is the judge
was exceeding his authority, in my opinion, and subsequent judges who affirmed
his decision did the same.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you see this recent compromise about judicial nominees
as holding at all in the Senate?
Sen. Santorum: I think the compromise was a good compromise. I think
it was an attempt to return the United States Senate to the precedent of
214 years, which is the minority had the right to filibuster, but simply
was not going to on a routine basis based on ideology. I think, so far,
so good. The nominations have moved forward as we expected. But, were
going to wait and see; were going to wait and see whether the liberal
special interest groups will continue to put pressure on the other side
to break their agreement to not filibuster judges and well go from
IgnatiusInsight.com: Many people wondered why you supported Sen. Arlen Specter
in his re-election bid last year when he is pro-choice and Pat Toomey, a
pro-life Republican, was challenging him. Can you explain that decision?
Sen. Santorum: I know the difference between the Republicans being in
the majority and the conservative agenda moving forward in the Congress
versus Democrats being the majority and liberal ideas moving forward in
the Congress. When Republicans are in control, we have a much better chance
and, in fact, do move forward with conservative legislation and principles.
And when the other side is in control, we dont. We were in a 51-49
majority when I had to make a decision as to whether as to support my colleague
or not and to me it was pretty easy. When youre in a 51-49 majority
you have work to hold your majority and that was an important part of my
And the other important part of the decision was that I represent the people
of Pennsylvania, and Sen. Specter was someone who had been in United States
Congress for four terms and has done a lot of good for the people of Pennsylvania
and is in a position to do a lot more good for the folks of Pennsylvania
and that was something that weighed on my mind. Finally, the most important
thingI guess the most controversial thing that at least the social
conservative movement is concerned aboutis the issue of judges. And
Sen. Specter has made it clear as long as Ive known him, and certainly
in the last few years, that he was going to work to move the presidents
judges when he became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee should
he be re-elected. And that has certainly proven to be the case; he has worked
very hard to get the presidents judges out and has been a very effective
voice for them.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Bob Casey is described as a pro-life Democrat. I want
to ask you two things about that. Would you say that he is pro-life? Secondly,
Howard Dean was instrumental in the decision for Bob Casey to run for your
seat. What do you think that says about the shift in the political landscape,
either nationally or in Pennsylvania?
Sen. Santorum: I think it might say more about what they think they
need to defeat Rick Santorum. I think they recruited someone who they thought
was in the best position to defeat me. I dont think its any
shift in Democratic philosophy and I think its been pretty clear as
theyve come down to Washington and said hell [Bob Casey] be
with the Democrats when they need him. And I think the good example of that
is, hes come out in favor of the filibuster of judicial nominations.
As we all know, the premise behind the filibuster of judicial nominations
has to do with the right to privacy, which is abortion. So, heres
someone who says hes pro-life yet he supports filibustering judges
who are pro-life because theyre pro-life. So I find that somewhat
inconsistent with being a pro-life senator to go along with the Democrats
judicial tyranny based upon the whole right to privacy issue and the Roe
v. Wade decision.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Finally, its been said that in the upcoming election
you will be in the fight of your political life. Is that true, and how do
you feel about the situation?
Sen. Santorum: Ive been behind in every race Ive ever run
so this is not anything new to me. This will be a challenging race, no question,
but I look at it as an opportunity to discuss my strong record of leadership
and achievement in the United States Senate. It is an honor to be a Senator
representing the people of Pennsylvania.
Want to make some comments about this article? Share them
over at the Insight Scoop blog.
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight.
She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print
and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University
of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service
at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San
Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.
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