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Political Career

U.S. House of Representatives (1991–1995)

In 1990, at age 32, Santorum was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to represent Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district, located in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. He scored a significant upset in the heavily Democratic district, defeating seven-term Democratic incumbent Doug Walgren by a 51%–49% margin.[24] During his campaign Santorum repeatedly criticized Walgren for living outside the district for most of the year.[25] Although the 18th District was redrawn for the 1992 elections, and the new district had a 3:1 ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans, Santorum still won re-election with 61% of the vote.[26]

In 1993, Santorum was one of 17 House Republicans who sided with most Democrats to support legislation that prohibited employers from permanently replacing striking employees.[27] He also joined a minority of Republicans to vote against the North American Free Trade Agreement that year.[28] As a member of the Gang of Seven, Santorum was involved in exposing of members of Congress involved in the House banking scandal.[citation needed]

U.S. Senate (1995–2007)

Santorum served in the United States Senate representing Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2007.


Santorum served in the United States Senate representing Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2007. From 2001 until 2007, he was the Senate's third-ranking Republican.[29] He was first elected to the Senate during the 1994 Republican takeover, narrowly defeating incumbent Democrat Harris Wofford 49% to 47%. The theme of Santorum's 1994 campaign signs was "Join the Fight!" During the race, he was considered an underdog, as his opponent was 32 years his senior.[30] He was re-elected in 2000, defeating U.S. Congressman Ron Klink by a 52%–46% margin. In his re-election bid of 2006, he lost to Democrat Bob Casey Jr.[31] by a 41%–59% margin.

In 1996, Santorum served as Chairman of the Republican Party Task Force on Welfare Reform, and contributed to legislation that became the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. Santorum was an author and the floor manager of the bill.[32] In 1996, Santorum endorsed moderate Republican Arlen Specter in his short-lived campaign for president. Reporters have observed that though Santorum and Specter differed on social policy, Specter provided him with key political staff for his successful run in 1994.[33]

The National Taxpayers Union, a fiscal conservative organization, gave Santorum an "A-" score for his votes on fiscal issues, meaning that he was one of "the strongest supporters of responsible tax and spending policies" during his tenure, and ranked fifth in the group's rankings out of 50 senators who served at the same time.[34]

Legislative proposals

Santorum, Sen. Arlen Specter, and Rep. John Murtha watch President George W. Bush sign the Flight 93 National Memorial Act.

Religious freedom and ideological diversity

Santorum sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) with U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA).[citation needed]

In 2003, Santorum and fellow Republicans heard from Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Zionist Organization of America about combating anti-Semitism in American colleges.[35] Santorum drafted language on "ideological diversity," which Race & Class magazine suggested was tantamount to "policing thought".[36] Inside Higher Ed suggested that he was pandering to David Horowitz and had no deep-seated position on the legislation.[37]

Teaching of evolution and intelligent design

Santorum added to the 2001 No Child Left Behind bill a provision that would have provided more freedom to schools in teaching about the origins of life, including the teaching of intelligent design along with evolution.[38][39] The bill, with the Santorum Amendment included, passed the Senate 91–8[38][40] and was hailed as a victory by intelligent design theory promoters.[41][42][43][44] However, before the bill became law, scientific and educational groups successfully urged its conference committee to strike the Santorum Amendment from the final version. Intelligent design supporters in Congress then preserved the language of the Santorum Amendment in the conference committee report of the legislative history of the bill.[41][42][43][44][45] The Discovery Institute and other intelligent design proponents point to this report as "a clear endorsement by Congress of the importance of teaching a variety of scientific views about the theory of evolution."[46][47]

In 2002, Santorum called intelligent design "a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes."[48] By 2005, though, he had adopted the Teach the Controversy approach.[49][50] He told National Public Radio, "I'm not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom. What we should be teaching are the problems and holes ... in the theory of evolution."[51] Later that year, Santorum resigned from the advisory board of the Christian-rights Thomas More Law Center after the Center's lawyers lost a case representing a school board that had required the teaching of intelligent design.[52] Santorum, who had previously supported the school board's policy, indicated he had not realized that certain members of the board had been motivated by religious beliefs.[52] Santorum critics claimed he was backtracking from his earlier position because he was facing a tough reelection fight for 2006.[52] When asked in November 2011 about his views on evolution, Santorum stated that he believes that evolution occurred on a tiny, micro level.[53]

National Weather Service Duties Act

Santorum introduced the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005[54][55] which aimed to prohibit the National Weather Service from releasing weather data to the public without charge where private-sector entities perform the same function commercially.[56] The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association was organizing a lobbying effort in opposition to the legislation,[57] but it never passed committee.[57] The motivations surrounding the bill were controversial, as employees of AccuWeather, a commercial weather company based in Pennsylvania, donated $10,500 to Santorum and his PAC.[58] The liberal advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington cited the bill as one of several reasons for listing Santorum as one of its "most corrupt politicians".[59] In support of the bill, Santorum criticized the National Weather Service in September 2005, saying its evacuation warnings for Hurricane Katrina were "insufficient".[56][60][61]

Fuel tax credit

In February 2006 Time magazine described a synthetic-fuel tax-credit amendment that Santorum added to a larger bill as "a multibillion-dollar scam" that benefited "a small group of the politically well connected".[62] A Santorum aide said a reason the senator pushed the amendment was to "provide parity for the non-conventional fuel tax credit with other energy tax credits and to provide certainty for taxpayers". He added that it would also "allow coke plants" to take advantage of tax incentives, claiming "this is important to the steel industry, which employs thousands of Pennsylvanians – making it more competitive in the global market."[62]

Foreign policy

Santorum is a supporter of the War on Terror and shares the views of neoconservatives and the Bush Doctrine in regard to foreign policy. He says the war on terror can be won and is optimistic about the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan for the long-term.[citation needed]

He sponsored the Syria Accountability Act of 2003, which required Syria to end all engagement in Lebanon and cease all support for terrorism. He originally wanted to go further with the bill, asking for the United States to create economic sanctions on Syria if it did not do so.[63] In June 2006, Santorum declared that weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) had been found in Iraq.[64] Santorum's declaration was based, in part, on declassified portions of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.[65] The report stated that coalition forces had recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions that contain degraded or vacant mustard or sarin nerve agent casings. The specific weapons he referred to were chemical munitions dating back to the Iran–Iraq War that were buried in the early 1990s. The report stated that while agents had degraded to an unknown degree, they remained dangerous and possibly lethal.[64] However, officials of the Department of Defense, CIA intelligence analysts, and the White House have all explicitly stated that these expired casings were not part of the WMDs threat that the Iraq War was launched to contain.[66]

In 2005, Santorum sponsored the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which appropriated $10 million aimed at regime change in Iran. The Act passed with overwhelming support. However, Santorum nevertheless voted against the Lautenberg amendment, which would have closed the loophole that allows companies like Halliburton to do business with Iran through their foreign affiliates.[67] He said Iran was at the center of "much of the world's conflict" but he was opposed to direct military action against the country in 2006.[citation needed]

Santorum said in July 2006 that "Islamic fascism rooted in Iran is behind much of the world's conflict, but he is opposed to military action against the country", in a speech where he "also defended the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay."[68] Santorum indicated that "effective action against Iran" would require America's fighting "for a strong Lebanon, a strong Israel, and a strong Iraq."[68]

On September 7, 2006, Santorum outlined his views on foreign policy in an op-ed piece for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and discussed Islamic fascism, closing with a rallying cry:

[...] the fight against Islamic fascism is the great test of our generation. Leaders are obliged to articulate this threat and to propose what is necessary to defeat it. That is my purpose, and our national calling. The American people have always rallied to the cause of freedom once they understood what was at stake. I have no doubt that they will again."
—Rick Santorum[69]

Santorum was one of only two senators who voted against confirming the nomination of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Santorum stated that his objection was to Gates's support for talking with Iran and Syria, because it would be an error to talk with radical Islamists.[70]

In 2006, Santorum introduced the term "Islamic fascism", while questioning "his opponent's ability to make the right decisions on national security at a time when 'our enemies are fully committed to our destruction.'"[71]

A supporter of enhanced interrogation, he said in 2011 that John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war, did not understand how the process works.[72]

Party leadership and other actions

In a 2002 PoliticsPA feature story designating politicians with yearbook superlatives, he was named the "Most Ambitious".[73]

As chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, Santorum directed the communications operations of Senate Republicans and was a frequent party spokesperson. He was the youngest member of the Senate leadership and the first Pennsylvanian to hold such a prominent position since Senator Hugh Scott was Republican leader in the 1970s.[74][75] In addition, Santorum served on the Senate Agriculture Committee; the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; the Senate Special Committee on Aging; and the Senate Finance Committee, of which he was the chairman of the Subcommittee on Social Security and Family Policy. He also sat at the candy desk for ten years.[74][75]

In January 2005, Santorum announced his intention to run for Senate Republican Whip, the second-highest post in the Republican caucus after the 2006 election.[76] The move came because it was presumed that the incumbent whip, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, had the inside track to succeeding Bill Frist of Tennessee as Senate Republican leader