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Santorum Defends His Use of Earmarks as a Member of Congress

"The people of Pennsylvania elected me to represent the interests of Pennsylvania."

On Thursday, Romney supporter and 2008 Republican candidate for president Sen. John McCain berated surging 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum for his practice of earmarking federal funds back to Pennsylvania during his 16 year career in Congress. The Wall Street Journal reprots that Sen. McCain has long crusaded against earmarks, and said "I believe that earmarking is a gateway drug to corruption.

"Senator Santorum supported it and engaged in it as much as he possibly could."

Sen. McCain criticized Santorum on the issue once again Friday while stumping for Mitt Romney in South Carolina: "Sen. Santorum and I have a strong disagreement, a strong disagreement that he believes that earmark and pork-barrel projects were good for America."

As his support for earmarks has been brought to attention in recent days, not only by Sen. McCain but also by the Club for Growth and National Review, the former Pennsylvania Senator has come out unapologetic on the issue.

CBS News reports that at a town hall in Dublin, New Hampshire Friday, Santorum defended his past use of the practice:

"The idea that earmarks--that because someone earmarks, that they're an irresponsible spender is just absurd. The big problem in the federal government with spending is not earmarks, it's entitlements," Santorum said. "The people of Pennsylvania elected me to represent the interests of Pennsylvania."

Santorum deflected criticism back at Sen.McCain for his lack of leadership on entitlement reform.

"Candidly, this is John McCain trying to put his imprimatur on the Republican conservative movement," Santorum said . "John McCain very rarely supported entitlement reform. He came from Arizona - [an] older state -- and ran to the hills when it came to anything having to do with senior benefits."

Santorum's open support of his use of earmarks is not new. The Club for Growth notes that in 2006, a Santorum campaign document entitled “50 things you may not know about Rick Santorum” praised the fact that he “helped secure $100 million in funding to build America’s first ever coal to ultra-clean fuel plant,” and brags about the fact that he “successfully fought to protect billions of dollars in transportation funds for Pennsylvania.”

During a 2009 panel discussion on FOX News Channel's Hannity, Santorum continued to defend his use of earmarking.

“I’m not saying necessarily earmarks are bad. I have had a lot of earmarks," said Santorum. "In fact, I’m very proud of all the earmarks I’ve put in bills. I’ll defend earmarks.”

Do you think Santorum's position on this issue is a liability for his presidential campaign, or even disqualifies him from representing the Republican Party whose congressional leadership has been outspoken in opposition to the practice?

One last thing…
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