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Van Hollen Says Santorum Comment a 'New Low' Van Hollen Says Santorum Comment a 'New Low'

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Van Hollen Says Santorum Comment a 'New Low'

photo of Margot Sanger-Katz
February 19, 2012

Rick Santorum’s assertion on Saturday that President Obama is advancing a “phony theology” represents a “new low in American politics,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md, on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

To the extent that Santorum was questioning the president’s religious faith, “he should retract and apologize for that statement,” Van Hollen said.

Van Hollen and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the two guests on the program, both rejected Santorum’s statement, prompted by the recent White House policy that would require all employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception to its workers. Ryan said that he would not characterize the president’s position in the same manner as Santorum. But he agreed that the policy should be reversed.

“It’s not an issue about contraception,” Ryan said.  “It’s an issue that reveals a political philosophy that the president is showing that he basically treats our constitutional rights as if they are revocable privileges from government and not inalienable rights from our creator.”

 

The president’s willingness to promote a health care policy that offends so many religious leaders in an election year should be a warning to voters, Ryan said.

“Imagine what he will be willing to do in implementing the rest of this law when he doesn’t have to face the voters again if he gets reelected,” Ryan said.

Van Hollen, for his part, said the recent Republican focus on the contraception debate was a sign of weakness on economic issues. In this climate, he said, “you find Republicans going back to the old red meat social issues that riles up their base.”

Unsurprisingly, the two differed in their view of the president’s budget and the payroll tax package that Congress passed this week. Ryan described the payroll tax as a poor economic driver, and said the legislation’s failure to pay for the tax cut extension caused him to vote against it. The president’s policy of stimulus and short-term tax cuts is nothing but “temporary sugar-high economics,” Ryan said.

Van Hollen defended the package, though he disagreed with some of the details.

“It will help economic growth—it could add up to 1 percent to GDP this year,” he said. “It’s common sense.” 

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