“I wrote the welfare reform bill in the Contract with America. I was the ranking member on that subcommittee. And when I came to the Senate, through a quirk, I ended up managing the bill on the floor of the United States Senate and working with President Clinton and getting a bill signed after he vetoed it twice to end welfare. We bloc-granted the program, got rid of the federal entitlement -- the only one in the history of the country that’s ever been done. And I was the principal author of it in the United States Senate, managed the bill on the floor.”
-- Rick Santorum, remarks during the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire, Jan. 4, 2012
Santorum’s debate comments echo a claim from a campaign ad that portrays him as a “full-spectrum conservative” who has the best chance to beat President Obama in the general election. Our colleagues at PolitiFact already covered this issue, calling the former Pennsylvania lawmaker’s assertion about welfare reform “Half True.” We have a different take.
Santorum isn’t the only Republican candidate to tout the 1996 welfare-reform act as one of his own accomplishments. Fellow presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich talks up his own involvement, having pushed hard for the overhaul while serving as speaker of the House after the 1994 Republican Revolution.
We examined the comments Gingrich made on welfare and Medicare reform, determining that he deserved one Pinocchio for exaggerating the impact of those measures. Santorum’s statement is different because he isn’t talking about impacts. He’s bragging about his role in the reform effort. We looked back at how the welfare overhaul became law to determine whether Santorum was involved in pushing the legislation as much as he claims.
Santorum is one of many 1990s politicians who pushed for welfare reform, and not all of them were Republicans. In fact, President Bill Clinton vowed during his first run for office to “end welfare as we know it,” among other promises, such as resurrecting the economy.
“I'm the only one in this race that has a track record of winning elections in tough states. I had a million more registered Democrats than Republicans, and in two statewide elections, running against very strong candidates, I was able to win the state of Pennsylvania, something a Republican hasn't done for president since 1988. And so if you look at everybody else in the field, no one has ever run as a conservative and been able to attract independents and Democrats to win.”
— Former Sen. Rick Santorum, during an interview with NBC News, Dec. 29, 2011
“Iowa is a tough state. Pennsylvania is tougher as far as Republicans to win. And here I am, and I went out and not just once, but twice won a heavily Democratic congressional district, not once but twice went out and won a state with a million more Democrats than Republicans.”
— Santorum, during campaign stop in Marshalltown, Iowa, Dec. 30, 2011
Santorum insists he can defeat Barack Obama in the general election, despite the fact that he polls poorly against the president in comparison with other GOP candidates. He’s banking on the notion that blue-collar voters — in particular conservative Democrats — will rally behind him in every swing state from Pennsylvania to Iowa, with the exception of Illinois, which is the president’s home state and a Democratic stronghold.
The GOP candidate, who nearly won the Iowa caucuses, touts his record of winning elections in Pennsylvania as proof that he’ll fare well from the nation’s Rust Belt to its Breadbasket. He claims his conservative values and his plan to eliminate the corporate tax on manufacturers — an attempt to bring jobs back from overseas — will appeal to middle-class voters across the spectrum, making him the most electable candidate in the Republican field.
We examined Santorum’s electoral record to find out whether he’s done as well as he claims in attracting Pennsylvania’s Democrats and independents.
Santorum has won four elections in a Democrat-leaning state, mainly by courting values voters and the working class. He won his first bid for election in 1990, edging out seven-term Democratic incumbent Doug Walgren for a seat in the U.S. House with 51 percent of the vote compared to his opponent’s 49 percent.
“I’ve voted toughly over the years to cut spending and to rein in entitlements. I’ve led on those things.”
— Rick Santorum, during Dec. 29, 2011, interview on NBC’s “Today Show”
“What happened after I left Congress was budgets began to explode. When I was in the Senate I voted for tough budgets, I voted for restrictions on spending, and made sure that that didn’t happen.”
— Santorum answering a question about his record of earmark spending during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Jan. 1, 2012
“I’m the only one in this race who didn’t increase an entitlement like Gov. Romney did in Massachusetts.”
-- Santorum, during campaign stop in Amherst, N.H., Jan. 7, 2012
Santorum’s comments suggest that he pushed conservative fiscal policies while serving in Congress. Fellow GOP presidential hopefuls Ron Paul and Rick Perry have challenged him on his record of promoting earmarks spending, and the first two quotes above represent his typical defense. The last comment represents a jab he took at Romney, suggesting he never increased entitlements as the former governor did with his Massachusetts health-care reform law.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column will be the first in a series of columns this week examining how factual former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has been in describing his career in politics. Reporter Josh Hicks has spent weeks examining Santorum’s statements and deciding which ones best represent how Santorum talks about his past. Hicks has previously examined biographical statements by Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
“I had absolutely nothing to do -- never met, never talked, never coordinated, never did anything -- with Grover Norquist and the, quote, K Street Project.”
-- Rick Santorum, during an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 25, 2006
“I have never called anybody or talked to anyone to try to get anybody a position on K Street with one exception, and that is if someone from my office is applying for a job and an employer calls me.”
-- Santorum, in an interview with The Washington Times, Jan. 30, 2006
Santorum made these comments while trying to distance himself from the so-called “K Street Project,” an effort by key Republicans to place party loyalists in top lobbying positions. The program, led by conservative activist Grover Norquist and former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), took place to varying degrees from roughly 1995 until about 2006. Its name refers to the D.C. corridor where lobbyists have set up shop in large numbers.
“My priorities, you cut off all foreign welfare and foreign militarism and corporate welfare before you go after child health-care.”
-- Ron Paul remarks during Bloomberg TV interview, June 3, 2011
“I’ve never voted for an earmark in my life.”
-- Remark by Paul on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Dec. 23, 2007
Paul addresses a number of issues with these comments, but the common thread is government favoritism. The congressman portrays himself as a strict budget hawk and a candidate who never supports corporate subsidies or special funding for his congressional district.
Lots of politicians blast earmarks but find ways to justify them for their own constituents. And plenty of lawmakers support tax breaks and corporate subsidies -- so-called corporate welfare -- as a way to create jobs, foster innovation, and even protect the environment in certain cases. We examined Paul’s record to find out whether he’s truly any different.
Paul’s campaign-finance record shows little indication of a politician who is tied to special interests. Individuals have provided the vast majority of his campaign cash, supplying 91 percent of the money since his first bid for office.
“Dr. Paul never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution. In the words of former Treasury Secretary William Simon, Dr. Paul is the ‘one exception to the Gang of 535’ on Capitol Hill.”
-- Biographical excerpt from the Ron Paul campaign site
“I have something different to offer. I emphasize civil liberties. I emphasize a pro- American foreign policy, which is a lot different than policemen of the world. I emphasize monetary policy and these things that the other candidates don’t talk about. But I think the important thing is, the philosophy I’m talking about is the Constitution and freedom.”
-- Paul, during Fox News GOP debate, Dec. 15, 2011
Paul has long portrayed himself as a constitutionalist, one who supports limited government and who values individual liberty above all else.
The term constitutionalist holds various meanings and incorporates numerous philosophies, but the main premise is that the government derives its powers from the Constitution. Paul applies the definition strictly, calling for the abolition of all federal programs not expressly authorized by the document.
We examined Paul’s record to find out whether he has lived up to his rhetoric. Could he really spend nearly 22 years in Congress without violating his principles?
Paul has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for refusing to cut deals and for opposing virtually every piece of legislation that could be interpreted as government overreach or interference with the free market.