Is Rick Santorum a Pennsylvania Inhabitant?

Editorial: Santorum, R-Va. / Is the senator an ‘inhabitant’ of Pennsylvania? (Post-Gazette)

The Penn Hills School District asked Sen. Rick Santorum a $38,000 question. That is whether his children are residents of the municipality to the point that their educations should be paid for by Penn Hills taxpayers. On Wednesday he gave his answer and it was no. The senator shouldn’t have felt put upon. It’s the same question that other districts routinely ask of families who impose themselves on a public school system where they do not live — sometimes because of athletics, sometimes because of better education.

Five Santorum children have been home-schooled at their house in Leesburg, Va., through the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, an education paid for by the Penn Hills district to the tune of $38,000 a year, until it became apparent recently that they don’t live in Penn Hills. The senator’s office issued a statement two days ago saying he and his wife, Karen, are withdrawing their children from the cyber school. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be attending any of the brick-and-mortar schools of the Penn Hills district either. The commute from the Santorum home in Leesburg, Va., would be onerous.

All of which begs a much bigger question: Is Rick Santorum R-Pa. or R-Va.? No one should represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate because he once lived here or because he visits all 67 counties every year. A traveling salesman can do that.

Article I of the U.S. Constitution says, “No person shall be a Senator … who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.” Rick Santorum last won election in November 2000, when he owned the house at 111 Stephens Lane in Penn Hills plus a house in Virginia. Where he was an “inhabitant” at the time only he can say.

I must say, this is one of the more idiotic arguments I’ve ever seen made. Members of Congress tend to live in Washington, D.C. or one of its suburbs because–get this–their job is in Washington, D.C. That’s where Capitol Hill is. Has been since around 1800.

It’s true that most Members travel home to their districts or states several times a month–and some don’t bother to bring their families with them to Washington at all. But since the “inhabitant” requirement applies to the Member and not their families, it probably doesn’t much matter. Given that Santorum pays taxes on his home and only resides elsewhere because he’s representing the state in Congress, one would think they would cut him some slack on the cyber school. But, certainly, he’s a Pennyslvanian.

I must admit, though, to finding some irony in this:

It’s a strange case of political turnabout. In his initial House race against Rep. Doug Walgren in 1990, challenger Santorum attacked the incumbent from Mt. Lebanon for buying a house and raising his children in McLean, Va. Now Rick Santorum of Leesburg, Va., is saying that he is and he isn’t a resident of Pennsylvania.

I am a bit bemused that the Santorums live in Leesburg, however. That’s about a 90 minute commute.

FILED UNDER: Congress
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mike Procario says:

    Well clearly Santorum does not want to live inside the Beltway.

  2. DC Loser says:

    If Santorum would just drive a little further he could actually live in Pennsylvia, in Gettysburg, which is now considered a Washington DC suburb.