In a conference call today, Romney surrogate Jim Talent slammed his former Senate colleague Rick Santorum for voting for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. A reporter on the call promptly noted that Talent had voted for Medicare Part D too.
This illustrates the extent to which the big government Bush years tainted many fiscal conservatives in Congress. Even Paul Ryan ended up voting for the biggest new entitlement program since the Great Society, one that actually increased Medicare’s unfunded liabilities by trillions of dollars. You can find plenty of conservative votes for TARP and No Child Left Behind too.
It’s tempting to write off Santorum’s deviations from limited government by pointing out that they mainly stemmed from loyalty to a Republican president or parochical concerns. But loyalty to Republican presidents and parochial concerns are exactly the reasons government tends to grow even when Republicans are in office. The fact is that Republicans are great fiscal conservatives when the Democrats are in power and tend to backslide when they are in power themselves. It’s a problem that faces Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich in varying degrees.