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U.S. SENATE Santorum confronts Democrats at briefing



Published: Sat, June 18, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Santorum is the Senate's third-ranking Republican.

HARRISBURG (AP) -- Sen. Rick Santorum blamed Senate Democrats on Friday for the lack of progress on Social Security reform, said he has no regrets about his high-profile role in the Terri Schiavo case and complained that the news media ignores him.

At a briefing that he initiated with reporters who cover state government at the Pennsylvania Capitol, Santorum said Democrats have politicized the Social Security debate by offering only criticism for President Bush's plan to allow younger workers to replace some traditional benefits with income from proposed voluntary private investment accounts.

"We have not had any cooperation from anyone on the other side of the aisle. ... No Senate Democrat now for six months, seven months of this debate, has put forward one idea," said Santorum, the Senate's third-ranking Republican. "That's a remarkable abandonment of the field."

No regrets

Santorum said he does not regret his efforts to help the parents of Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman, in their drawn-out battle with her husband over whether or not her feeding tube should be removed. The tube was removed and Schiavo died March 31, after federal judges refused to intervene despite Congress' passage of a special law allow such a review.

"No, no. I don't have any regrets at all that I stood up for what I believed was right in defending a disabled person from being executed," Santorum said.

Schiavo's parents said they interacted with her, while husband Michael and court-appointed doctors said the 41-year-old had no hope of recovery. An autopsy report released Wednesday said her brain had shrunk to about half the normal size and she was blind by the time she died.

In a current fund-raising letter, Santorum says he has doubts about the media's ability to tell the truth about his record. When asked if he was accusing the news media of lying, Santorum criticized what he regards as insufficient coverage.

Telling the truth

"I can give you plenty of examples of [how] the mainstream media has fundamentally ignored my record and chronically does so," he said. "If you don't tell what goes on, that's not telling the truth."

Santorum said the odds are against reversing plans to close 13 Pennsylvania military installations, but that he hopes a strong case can be made for keeping open the Air Force's 911th Tactical Airlift Group near the Pittsburgh airport in Coraopolis. He said Pentagon planners assumed the base could accommodate only 10 planes, when there is room for 20.

The second-term senator, who is up for re-election next year, dismissed recent polling that showed one of his prospective Democratic challengers, state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., leading in a hypothetical matchup.

"It's 17 months before the election," he said. "It doesn't matter what the polls say at this point."




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