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Santorum touts choice in health care at Iowa City breakfast stop

Republican candidate wants to deport foreign workers who have overstayed visas

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IOWA CITY — While sitting down to a veggie and swiss omelet at the Hamburg Inn, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum compared Democrat Bernie Sanders’ health care proposal to being at a restaurant with only one choice on the menu.

Santorum, who narrowly won Iowa’s 2012 Republican caucuses but has only single-digit support now, started early on the last week before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast.

“I don’t understand how young people stack the place for Bernie Sanders when he says things like ‘We’ll take away everything you have’ and they cheer,” Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, told about 20 people gathered at the Iowa City diner.

The Affordable Care Act, which Santorum called Obamacare, hasn’t delivered on its promises of requiring all Americans to have insurance and allowing people with insurance to keep their plans, he said.

Sanders goes further, advocating for universal health care paid for by the government. “In Bernie’s restaurant, everyone gets the same thing,” Santorum said.

Santorum supports health savings accounts, which allow people to make tax-free deposits into accounts to be used for medical expenses.

Stacia Drafahl, 22, a Hamburg Inn employee from Iowa City, told Santorum she would be glad to pay more for insurance if it meant coverage for older, sicker Americans.

“We subsidize a lot of corporations and banks; I don’t hear about that,” Drafahl said.

Santorum responded that he voted against bailouts for Wall Street and the automotive industry that occurred as part of the Great Recession.

“A lot of the things the left complains about, they actually do,” he said.

Santorum’s immigration plans include deporting foreigners who have overstayed their student or employment visas. Those visitors — many who are working in science and technology — are taking jobs from Americans, he said.

He would also like to support young Americans who decide to go into trades, such as construction or welding.

Bill Warner, 68, of Coralville, asked Santorum what he would do to reduce gun violence, which kills about 30,000 Americans each year.

“At the root of every problem is the breakdown of the nuclear family,” Santorum said, adding that kids who grow up without fathers are more likely to stray down a path of crime.

He encouraged Americans to get active in their communities by mentoring and other volunteer activities. Santorum also scoffed at President Barack Obama for worrying about global climate change instead of traditional family values.

Warner, an independent who attended a Hillary Clinton event earlier this month, said he agreed with Santorum.

“For Rick to come down to a focus on family, I thought that was impressive,” he said. “He’s talking about jobs, education and enforcing laws on the books.”

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