WASHINGTON — In his eight years on the Senate Banking Committee, Rick Santorum was an infrequent presence at committee hearings, even though his office was located on the same floor of the Dirksen office building as the committee's hearing room.

But there was one issue where the Pennsylvania Republican sought to play a leading role. Santorum, despite his reputation as a conservative stalwart, had a keen interest in providing disadvantaged families greater access to affordable housing.

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