Rick Santorum: Fiscal Conservative

Among conservatives, the knock on Rick Santorum is that his record on spending doesn’t live up to his record on social issues or foreign policy – that he’s a “pro-life statist,” as Erick Erickson characteristically put it back when he was carrying water for Rick Perry. But a new Weekly Standard piece takes a closer look, and found that Santorum actually had one of the most fiscally conservative voting records during his time in the Senate, despite representing a more liberal state than many of his Republican colleagues:
NTU’s [National Taxpayers Union] scoring paints a radically different picture of Santorum’s 12-year tenure in the Senate (1995 through 2006) than one would glean from the rhetoric of the Romney campaign.  Fifty senators served throughout Santorum’s two terms:  25 Republicans, 24 Democrats, and 1 Republican/Independent.  On a 4-point scale (awarding 4 for an A, 3.3 for a B+, 3 for a B, 2.7 for a B-, etc.), those 50 senators’ collective grade point average (GPA) across the 12 years was 1.69 — which amounts to a C-.  Meanwhile, Santorum’s GPA was 3.66 — or an A-.  Santorum’s GPA placed him in the top 10 percent of senators, as he ranked 5th out of 50. 

Across the 12 years in question, only 6 of the 50 senators got A’s in more than half the years.  Santorum was one of them.  He was also one of only 7 senators who never got less than a B.  (Jim Talent served only during Santorum’s final four years, but he always got less than a B, earning a B- every year and a GPA of 2.7.)  Moreover, while much of the Republican party lost its fiscal footing after George W. Bush took office — although it would be erroneous to say that the Republicans were nearly as profligate as the Democrats — Santorum was the only senator who got A’s in every year of Bush’s first term.  None of the other 49 senators could match Santorum’s 4.0 GPA over that span.
The Standard article compares and averages a lot of grades, but doesn’t go into a lot of detail about what Santorum voted on. For that, check out the Club for Growth’s Presidential White Paper on him. Their conclusion: while Santorum backed a number of bad policies, his overall economic record was “above average.”
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