Dems Call for Santorum to Resign Post
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate Democrats’ political organization on Tuesday called for Republican Sen. Rick Santorum to resign his leadership position after the lawmaker compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.
One day after gay-rights groups urged GOP senators to consider removing Santorum from his leadership post, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said the two-term Pennsylvania senator should step down as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the No. 3 job in the party leadership.
The DSCC called Santorum’s remarks ``divisive, hurtful and reckless″ and said they ``are completely out of bounds for someone who is supposed to be a leader in the United States Senate.″
In an interview with The Associated Press, Santorum criticized homosexuality while discussing a pending Supreme Court case over a Texas sodomy law.
``If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything,″ Santorum said in the interview, published Monday.
Santorum spokeswoman Erica Clayton Wright said Monday that the lawmaker’s comments were ``were specific to the Supreme Court case.″ The senator’s office had no immediate comment Tuesday to the DSCC’s call for him to give up his leadership job.
The DSCC also urged Santorum’s fellow Republican senator, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, to repudiate the remarks. Specter, a moderate Republican, is up for re-election in 2004 and faces a primary challenge from conservative Republican Rep. Pat Toomey.
Questioned at the White House news briefing, press secretary Ari Fleischer had no comment on Santorum’s remarks, saying he had not seen the ``the entire context of the interview. And ... I haven’t talked to the president about it so I really don’t have anything to offer.″
Separately, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry issued a statement criticizing Santorum’s comments and assailing the White House for remaining silent ``while their chief lieutenants make divisive and hurtful comments that have no place in our politics.″
``Every day in our country, gay and lesbian Americans get up, go to work, pay their taxes, support their families and contribute to the nation they love. These comments take us backwards in America,″ said the Massachusetts senator.
Democratic hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said Santorum ``is wrong. The Texas law is unconstitutional and an insult to the better America we need to build for all our people.″
Democratic candidate John Kerry on Tuesday proposed creating ``environmental empowerment zones″ and offered several other initiatives to help poor and minority communities fight pollution.
``For too long, polluters thought they could get away with breaking the law as long as it was in someone else’s backyard,″ the Massachusetts senator said Tuesday. ``Those days need to end. Under a Kerry administration, no community will have their environment overlooked.″
Kerry said the ``empowerment zones″ would ensure federal and local scrutiny of development projects and their affect on the environment.
Kerry also proposed creating a post of assistant administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency who would focus solely on environmental justice. Though the agency already has an environmental justice team, Kerry said the new position would mean greater authority. He also promised to create a national health tracking system for asthma and other environmentally linked diseases.
Though his visit to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in Concord, N.H., coincided with 33rd anniversary of Earth Day, Kerry said there was no reason to celebrate. He criticized President Bush for breaking his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, refusing to sign the Kyoto Agreement on global warming and proposing to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
``Under President Bush, I believe that America’s environment has become more threatened, not less, more endangered, not less, and more imperiled,″ he said.
Republicans argued that Bush’s proposed budget seeks $44.9 billion for natural resources, the environment and environmental-related transportation and defense programs.
In New York, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman lambasted Bush’s record on the environment as ``the worst since the modern environmental movement began.″
There is ``a very broad bipartisan consensus in favor of environmental protection, which this administration has placed itself totally outside of,″ the Connecticut lawmaker said at a news conference in Verplanck, N.Y.
The final lineup for Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s ``Hear it From the Heartland″ forums for the presidential candidates has been set.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will join Harkin at a May 18 session in Davenport, and Sen. Bob Graham of Florida will appear June 7 in Council Bluffs. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts will join Harkin June 22 in Mason City, and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri will appear in Dubuque on July 13.
The other dates are: Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, July 27 in Ottumwa; Al Sharpton, Aug. 5 in Sioux City; former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Aug. 3 in Waterloo, and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Sept. 21 in Cedar Rapids.
Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina had his forum.
Iowa’s precinct caucuses on Jan. 19 launch the presidential nominating season.
Associated Press Writer Mike Glover in Des Moines, Iowa, and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.