Pence will use ex­pe­ri­ence to guide Trump

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Mike Pence re­turned to Capi­tol Hill on Thurs­day as the vice pres­i­dent-elect, serv­ing as wing­man in help­ing nav­i­gate Pres­i­dent-elect Donald Trump through the halls of power.

The In­di­ana gover­nor and ex-con­gress­man took a leap of faith when he ac­cepted Mr. Trump’s in­vi­ta­tion to be his run­ning mate. Now con­ser­va­tives say that as the ex­pe­ri­enced Capi­tol Hill hand serv­ing a pres­i­dent who has never held elected of­fice before, Mr. Pence is po­si­tioned to be one of the most in­flu­en­tial vice pres­i­dents in his­tory.

“Donald Trump comes to Washington as the com­plete out­sider who has never run for of­fice before, who has never worked in Washington, who doesn’t know how to nav­i­gate these wa­ters. Mike Pence is go­ing to be that per­son who does it for him in Washington, D.C. He is the one with the ex­pe­ri­ence,” said L. Brent Bozell, founder of the Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter.

Mr. Pence served in the House for 12 years, earn­ing his con­ser­va­tive rep­u­ta­tion by op­pos­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s No Child Left Be­hind ed­u­ca­tion law, the Medi­care pre­scrip­tion drug ben­e­fit, bal­loon­ing deficits and the 2008 bailout of Wall Street.

He served as chair­man of the con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee and then did a stint in House lead­er­ship as chair­man of the Repub­li­can cau­cus, build­ing ties with Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, and Sen. Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, now their re­spec­tive cham­bers’ lead­ers.

Mr. McCon­nell said he en­vi­sions Mr. Pence serv­ing as a con­duit be­tween the White House and members of Congress in much the same fash­ion that Dick Cheney did for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

“I’ve men­tioned that to Vice Pres­i­dent Pence,” Mr. McCon­nell said. “I hope he will at­tend our Tues­day pol­icy lunches when he’s in town and kind of be our li­ai­son be­tween the ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Se­nate, much like Vice Pres­i­dent Cheney was.”

Mr. Pence was at Mr. Trump’s side Thurs­day as the pres­i­dent-elect held sep­a­rate meet­ings with Mr. Ryan and Mr. McCon­nell, but he didn’t ad­dress the press.

He also met with Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den while Pres­i­dent Obama was show­ing Mr. Trump around the Oval Of­fice and first lady Michelle Obama was meet­ing Me­la­nia Trump.

As vice pres­i­dent, Mr. Pence will have an of­fice in the Se­nate, where the Con­sti­tu­tion makes him the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer. Vice pres­i­dents rarely per­form that role, ex­cept in cer­e­mo­nial du­ties or to break tie votes, but it cre­ates an open­ing for the kind of bridge-build­ing at which Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bi­den, a for­mer se­na­tor him­self, have ex­celled.

Mr. McCon­nell men­tioned bro­ker­ing sev­eral ma­jor deals with Mr. Bi­den in re­cent years.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Mr. Trump’s se­lec­tion of Mr. Pence as his run­ning mate helped as­suage the con­cerns of con­ser­va­tive and Repub­li­can lead­ers who were wary of the brash bil­lion­aire. Mr. Pence was even de­ployed to Capi­tol Hill to as­sure Repub­li­can law­mak­ers that the sim­i­lar­i­ties they had with Mr. Trump’s agenda far out­weighed their dif­fer­ences.

David McIn­tosh, an ex-Con­gress­man from In­di­ana who now leads the Club for Growth, which has been crit­i­cal of Mr. Trump and his free trade stance, said he be­lieves Mr. Pence will “put def­i­ni­tion around Trump’s vi­sion” — as he did in the elec­tion.

“Trump said, ‘I am go­ing to make Amer­ica great again.’ Mike would ex­plain how free market eco­nom­ics, how con­ser­va­tive jus­tices, how an agenda that truly is small gov­ern­ment and pro-free­dom will make Amer­ica great again,’” Mr. McIn­tosh said.

“I think he will be there as a steady, faith­ful part­ner to Donald Trump, bring his ex­pe­ri­ence from be­ing a House mem­ber and as a gover­nor into the room and share with him, ‘Here is how we re­ally make work the agenda for mak­ing Amer­ica great again,’ and that is why we thought it was a great pick,” he said. “He is a hum­ble man, strong in his own faith, but also knows what he be­lieves in, and I think that will pro­vide a good, steady rud­der for the up­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

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