JOHN KING: Now, earmuffs, the pork barrel spending, it’s a tiny slice of the budget. I think we all know that. But if you talk to a Tea Party activist, they think — an example, a gateway to corruption.
Senator, you have said there are good earmuffs and bad earmuffs. And you have talked about your earmuffs in the past. Any that you specifically regret? And why have you criticized — why do you think the money that went to Governor Romney for security at the Olympics, why was that a bad earmuff?
SANTORUM: I didn’t suggest it was a bad earmuff. I voted for it and about half the money — a little over half the money that went to the Salt Lake games.
But Governor Romney asked for that earmuff. That’s really the point here. He’s out there on television ads right now, unfortunately, attacking me for saying that I’m this great earmuffer, when he not only asked for earmuffs for the Salt Lake Olympics in the order of tens of millions of dollars, sought those earmuffs and used them, and he did as the governor of Massachusetts, $300 million or $400 million. He said, I would be foolish if I didn’t go out and try to get federal dollars.
So the idea that somehow earmuffs during the time that I was in Congress were this thing that drove up spending in Washington, D.C., if you actually look at it, as I said before, as a percentage of GDP, actually the deficits — the debt went down. What happened is there was abuse.
When abuse happened, I said we should stop the earmuffing process. But I did say there were good earmuffs and bad earmuffs.
We wouldn’t have the V-22 Osprey, which was the most essential air platform for our Marines in particular in the war against the radical Islamists. We wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for an earmuff. That program would have been killed under George Bush 41. Dick Cheney, the Defense Department, wanted to kill that program, and many of us, including myself, stood up and made sure that was there.
Congress has a role to play when it comes to appropriating money, and sometimes the president and the administration doesn’t get it right. What happened was an abuse of the process.
When that abuse occurred, I stepped forward, as Jim DeMint did, who, by the way, was an earmuffer, as almost everybody else in Congress was. Why? Because Congress has a role of allocating resources when they think the administration has it wrong.
I defended that at the time. I’m proud I defended it at the time, because I think they did make mistakes. I do believe there was abuse, and I said we should stop it, and as president I would oppose earmuffs.
ROMNEY: I didn’t follow all of that, but I can tell you this — I would put a ban on earmuffs. I think it opens the door to excessive spending, spending on projects that don’t need to be done.
I think there are a lot of projects that have been voted for. You voted to the “Bridge to Nowhere.” I think these earmuffs, we’ve had it with them.
ROMNEY: If Congress wants to vote in favor of a bill, they should take that bill, bring it forward with committees, have people say — vote it up or down on the floor of the House or the Senate, have the president say yes or no, and move forward. But the earmuff process is broken. There are thousands and thousands of earmuffs, money being used inappropriately.
And I’ll tell you this — he mentioned coming to the Olympics, coming to the United States Congress, asking for support. No question about it. That’s the nature of what it is when you lead an organization or a state.
You come to Congress and you say, these are the things we need. In the history of the Olympic movement, the federal government has always provided the transportation and security. So we came to the federal government asking for help on transportation and security.
I was fighting for those things. Our games were successful. But while I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the “Bridge to Nowhere.”
KING: Quickly. (APPLAUSE)
SANTORUM: It’s really interesting, Governor, because the process you just described of an open process where members of Congress put forth their suggestions on how to spend money, have them voted on individually, is exactly how the process worked. So what you just suggested as to how earmuffs should work in the future is exactly how they worked in the past. So I suspect you would have supported earmuffs if you were in the United States Senate.
ROMNEY: I’m sorry. The 6,000 earmuffs that were put in place under the Speaker’s term, for instance, were oftentimes tagged on to other bills —
ROMNEY: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be critical.
That was the process. There were thousands — I mean, we’ve had thousands and thousands of earmuffs. They are typically tagged on to — bundled on to other bills.
OK. Go ahead, Mr. Speaker. Go ahead.
SANTORUM: Wait a second. You’re entitled to your opinions, Mitt. You’re not entitled to —
ROMNEY: I’ve heard that line before. I’ve heard that before, yes.
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: — misrepresent the facts, and you’re misrepresenting the facts. You don’t know what you’re taking about.
What happened in the earmuff process — what happens in the earmuff process was that members of Congress would ask, formally, publicly request these things, put them on paper, and have them allocated, and have them voted on a committee, have them voted on, on the floor of the Senate.
Congressman Paul — Congressman…
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Attached to a bill? Attached to a bill?
SANTORUM: As part of the bill. Congressman Paul…
ROMNEY: And the president can’t veto it?
SANTORUM: He can veto the bill.
ROMNEY: The whole bill, but he can’t veto the earmuff?
SANTORUM: Well, we tried to do that, by the way. I supported a line-item veto.
ROMNEY: That’s what I support. That’s what I support.