THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The following are excerpts of reporter Charles Hurt’s recent interview with Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican:
Question: You are the No. 3 Republican in the Republican-controlled Senate, which passed an immigration bill that would grant amnesty to some 10 million illegal aliens. Why shouldn’t you be blamed for its passage?
Answer: The majority of Republicans did not [support the bill.] The majority of Republicans did not, and I was in that majority.
Q: Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House. Why shouldn’t Republicans be blamed for not passing an immigration reform bill with tough border security?
A: Unlike the House, which can control through the Rules Committee what amendments are offered, in the Senate, we can’t do that. We were successful in making sure a horrific bill did not pass. In the Senate, when a major piece of legislation comes forward, you vote on it and you vote on amendments. A supermajority supported this bill.
If we had those votes again today, I’m not too sure that would be the case.
Q: How would you rate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s handling of the immigration bill?
A: I didn’t agree with a lot of his votes, although I think he voted with me most of the time. We had to deal with this issue. The president of your party is saying you’ve got to do it and the other side says you’ve got to do it and there’s a supermajority to do it, you have no choice but to do it. I don’t know how else you could’ve handled it.
Q: Given the country’s financial straits — from the Iraq war to the pending collapse of Social Security — is $500,000 for a polar bear exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo really a wise investment for federal taxpayers?
A: I’ve been a strong believer of lean budgets, and I vote for them. I vote for every tough budget there is. I vote against the vast majority of the spending increases that are being proposed. If the United States government were run on my voting record, our deficits would be a lot lower than they are today.
That does not mean that I don’t think Congress doesn’t have prerogative to direct certain amounts of spending when it comes to spending in your state. I don’t accept the fact that the bureau knows better than we do about how to spend all the resources.
Q: You are one of the highest ranking Republicans in Washington. Why don’t you change that culture of spending?
A: I am not an advocate for eliminating that sort of spending. I think a lot of those categories are very worthwhile, that the federal government has a role.
There are areas that I would agree we can and should eliminate spending. In the last budget, we eliminated 21 programs and severely reduced 97 others. We’re going though the same process of doing that now. I am for making the government smaller, but my point is, in the areas that we are spending money, I believe Congress should have a say in where that money goes.