Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum hasn’t been so happy to hear Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., criticize him for earmarks as the 2008 GOP nominee stumps for front-runner Mitt Romney. And the former Pennsylvania senator is firing back, Politico
“A little thing that gets my goat: Earmarks as an issue was created by John McCain,” Santorum said at a town hall meeting in Hilton Head, S.C., Thursday.
“The reason John McCain created the earmark controversy is because he needed to say he was tough on spending. The problem is that when it came to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps, he never wanted to cut anything. Those are the big issues. That’s where the money was.”
Congressional appropriations aren’t the issue, because entitlements account for 60 percent of government spending, Santorum said, according to Politico.
“He wanted to run as a conservative, so he created an issue that had very little to do with the deficit,” Santorum said of McCain.
The candidate tried to put earmarks in local terms for his audience, invoking a storied name in the Palmetto State, Politico reports. “Certainly former Sen. Strom Thurmond did a whole lot of them as the senator from South Carolina,” Santorum said.
“We felt it was our obligation to go down there and make sure that the money was spent correctly and that our states were given the resources we needed. ... I felt that was my responsibility to do that, and part of it was earmarking.”
Santorum said that earmarks were accepted virtually unanimously as common practice during much of his 12-year Senate tenure. And after he saw abuse of the system, he became an opponent of earmarks. In any case, the issue is a red herring, Santorum said, as he pledges to slash $5 billion of spending in five years if he’s elected.
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