Pence on the Trump man­date

The vice pres­i­dent-elect says growth is the key

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Cal Thomas Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist. His lat­est book is “What Works: Com­mon Sense Solutions for a Stronger Amer­ica” (Zon­der­van, 2014).

When Mike Pence be­comes the 48th vice pres­i­dent of the United States next month, he will take on the role of a po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ist for Don­ald Trump’s ac­tivist agenda.

In an in­ter­view I con­ducted with Mr. Pence in his tran­si­tional of­fice next to a sand­wich shop in Wash­ing­ton, he said he be­lieved vot­ers gave Don­ald Trump a “man­date.” How can that be when Hil­lary Clin­ton won the pop­u­lar vote? “Trump won 30 out of 50 states. He won more coun­ties than any Repub­li­can can­di­date since Ron­ald Rea­gan, and he un­de­ni­ably reached Amer­i­cans that Repub­li­can can­di­dates haven’t been reach­ing on the na­tional level.”

To help Mr. Trump ac­com­plish his leg­isla­tive goals, Mr. Pence plans to at­tend the weekly lun­cheon meet­ing with se­na­tors and meet on oc­ca­sion with mem­bers of the House where he spent more than a decade as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from In­di­ana.

“My years on Capi­tol Hill have con­vinced me that it is of­ten the in­for­mal set­tings where you can learn where the op­por­tu­ni­ties are, what chal­lenges need to be met. The agenda we are lay­ing out is as en­er­getic as the man who was elected pres­i­dent. We have a 100-day agenda, a 200-day agenda.”

I asked about Mr. Trump’s pledges to spend on in­fras­truc­ture, re­build the mil­i­tary, the op­tion of pri­vate care for veter­ans, paid for by the gov­ern­ment. All of these will cost money and add to the debt.

Mr. Pence re­sponds: “The pres­i­den­t­elect, I think, be­lieves ev­ery­thing be­gins with growth.” Mr. Trump, he says, is count­ing on eco­nomic growth from re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare and lib­er­at­ing cor­po­ra­tions from un­nec­es­sary reg­u­la­tions. He fore­sees a wave of pros­per­ity that will not add to the debt, but pro­duce more tax rev­enue, even as taxes are cut for in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses. He adds that in the case of in­fras­truc­ture, “en­cour­ag­ing pub­lic and pri­vate part­ner­ships” will re­duce the cost to gov­ern­ment.

“The pres­i­dent-elect is ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to scrub­bing the fed­eral bud­get with the eye of a busi­ness­man,” Mr. Pence said, “look­ing for ef­fi­cien­cies in ev­ery in­dus­try and look­ing for ways to elim­i­nate waste, fraud and abuse and re­ally mean­ing it.”

Like the is­sue of Boe­ing and the new Air Force One planes, which Mr. Trump has said he would can­cel, un­less the costs come down? Mr. Trump and Den­nis Muilen­burg, Boe­ing chair­man and CEO, spoke by phone and Mr. Muilen­burg re­port­edly said he is com­mit­ted to con­trol­ling costs.

Mr. Pence laughed, “Of course you can [con­trol costs], if some­one asks you to. Wash­ing­ton, D.C., is not ac­cus­tomed to hav­ing some­one in the Oval Of­fice who ac­tu­ally asks peo­ple to sharpen their pen­cils.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Pence, Mr. Trump is “pas­sion­ate about health sav­ings ac­counts and the no­tion of giv­ing peo­ple more own­er­ship over their health care.” He be­lieves “con­sumer-directed health care is the wave of the fu­ture. It bends the cost curve, in some cases, very dra­mat­i­cally.” He added, In­di­ana “is the first state to scale con­sumer-driven health care into Med­i­caid (which a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will pro­pose block-grant­ing to the states). “We now have over 400,000 Hoosiers who are at, or near, the poverty level mak­ing a monthly con­tri­bu­tion to a health sav­ings ac­count. They have an in­cen­tive to en­gage in pre­ven­tive medicine. They’re out of emer­gency room care and into pri­mary care. … The long-term prospect for low­er­ing the cost of health care in Amer­ica is a health­ier Amer­ica.”

What about the “never-Trumpers” and their re­fusal to ac­cept him as pres­i­dent? “I think the pres­i­dent-elect has the leadership qual­i­ties and the strength to meet this mo­ment in our na­tional life,” he said.

Mr. Pence promised a re­peal of the “Lyn­don John­son” IRS reg­u­la­tion that has been in­ter­preted to mean pas­tors can­not talk about po­lit­i­cal is­sues, or risk los­ing their tax ex­emp­tions. He ac­knowl­edges the rule is un­evenly ap­plied and needs to be elim­i­nated. “Most of the pub­lic speeches at Amer­ica’s found­ing were ser­mons,” he said, al­low­ing that many of those who led civil rights move­ment were preach­ers whose churches never had their tax sta­tus chal­lenged.

Is Mike Pence ready to be pres­i­dent should cir­cum­stances dic­tate?

“I pray that I’m ready to be vice pres­i­dent,” he re­sponds.

We’ll soon know how that prayer is an­swered.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Pence, Mr. Trump is “pas­sion­ate about health sav­ings ac­counts and the no­tion of giv­ing peo­ple more own­er­ship over their health care.”

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