Tuesday, August 30, 2005

CBS 3: Casey: Santorum Should Vote Against Base Plan

CBS 3: Casey: Santorum Should Vote Against Base Plan: "Casey: Santorum Should Vote Against Base Plan

Interview Conducted By The Associated Press

Aug 30, 2005 9:08 am US/Eastern
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Republican Sen. Rick Santorum should “seriously consider” voting against the entire latest round of base closings, because plans to close the Willow Grove Naval Air Station pose a possible security threat, Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Robert P. Casey Jr. said Monday.

In an Associated Press interview in which he also blasted Santorum for placing partisan politics before the state’s interests, Casey said Santorum should weigh the homeland-security implications of closing the air base when the national base-closure commission’s recommendations are sent to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

“There are a lot of factors to weigh, but (Santorum) should seriously consider—and I would, as a U.S. senator, seriously consider—voting against it for that reason,” said Casey, who is Pennsylvania’s state treasurer.

“We’re not just talking about southeastern Pennsylvania and our state,” he said. “We’re talking a national security question as well.”

Santorum, who is the third-ranking Senate GOP leader, said he has supported past base-closing recommendations because he was convinced they were in the nation’s best interest and would judge the latest proposals in the same light.
“I’ve got to take everything in consideration, not just the impact on Pennsylvania,” the second-term senator said in a telephone interview.

The commission voted Friday to close the air station, a move that the Pentagon estimates will lead to the loss of 1,200 jobs, but decided to save and expand the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station to handle homeland security functions.

The vote on Willow Grove came shortly after a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled the Pentagon lacks the authority to deactivate the 111th Fighter Wing, a Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit at the base.

The commission must turn over its final report to President Bush by Sept. 8. He can accept it, reject it or return it for revisions. Congress will have a chance to veto the plan in its entirety, but it has gone along with four previous rounds of base closings.

Monday’s interview with the AP drew out an apparent contrast in the way Casey and Santorum plan to approach the issue of abortion rights, which both men oppose.

Voters, Casey said, “don’t want their U.S. senator preaching at them, and unfortunately I think Senator Santorum does too much of that.”

Santorum said Casey’s comments reflect his lack of conviction.

“He will not be an advocate on that issue,” Santorum said.

“It’s an important issue for me and my country and I think I have a responsibility to speak on it.”

Casey said he would be willing to support a candidate for the federal bench who supports abortion rights, so long as his or her experience, judicial philosophy and temperament were appropriate for the position.
“I don’t have a litmus test,” he said.

On a related topic, Casey said he opposes federal funding for stem-cell research that destroys human embryos, but that he was encouraged by this month’s announcement by Harvard scientists raising the possibility that embryonic stem cells can someday be used to help create all-purpose stem cells without harming the embryos.

The son of the late governor, the 45-year-old Casey faces two lesser-known opponents in next spring’s Democratic primary—University of the Arts professor Chuck Pennacchio and Philadelphia pension lawyer Alan Sandals—but is widely favored to win.

In the GOP primary, Santorum faces opposition from Philadelphia real-estate broker John Featherman, who was the Libertarian Party’s nominee against Santorum in 2000.

Casey has run in four statewide elections since 1996 and lost one, the 2002 gubernatorial primary.

He accused Santorum of exploiting divisions among Americans over such issues as homosexuality and abortion at a time voters want less partisanship in national politics.

“They want change,” he said. “They’re really sick and tired of what they hear out of Washington—the harsh partisanship they hear every day, especially from the Republican side. And unfortunately Senator Santorum has been a leader in that by being very aggressive and determined, it seems, to divide people and sometime to demonize people.”

Casey treaded carefully on the subject of the war in Iraq, faulting the Bush administration for failing to provide adequate information about the status of U.S. efforts to train Iraqi soldiers and add armor to vehicles that transport American troops. He also criticized Santorum for “not asking the tough questions” of the GOP administration.

Asked whether he would have supported the Iraq invasion, he said, “If what we know now was known then, I don’t think there would have even been a vote, let alone a debate about whether it was the right vote.”

But he stopped short of saying the invasion should not have taken place.

“That’s all past tense,” he said. “What we have to deal with now is the present and the future.”

Casey, who won more votes than any candidate in state history when he was elected treasurer last year, said he would serve the full six-year term if he ultimately is elected to the Senate.

“If I were fortunate enough to win this election, I think I could use a break from running for office,” he said.
Associated Press Writer Kimberly Hefling contributed to this story.


(© 2005 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. )"

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