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Pence urges ‘positive’ agenda to counter Biden in first speech since leaving office

The Honorable Mike Pence

Former Vice President Pence on Thursday made his return to the public eye, looking back on the work of the Trump administration and calling for conservatives to unite in opposition to President Biden’s agenda.

Pence served as the keynote speaker at a Palmetto Family Council event in South Carolina. The former vice president made no mention of the violence on Jan. 6, a moment that shook Washington, D.C., the Trump administration and appeared to create friction between the former president and Pence.

Pence also did not tip his hand about his plans for 2024 in remarks to the conservative group.

But Pence’s address previewed how he will try to remain a player in the conservative movement as he navigates his political future, playing up his work alongside Trump while emerging as a critic of the Biden administration.

“After 100 days of open borders, runaway spending, plans for higher taxes, a bigger welfare state, more government, defunding the police, abandoning the right to life, canceling our most cherished liberties, I’ve had enough,” Pence told the crowd.

“After 100 days, I think the time has come for Americans devoted to faith and family and freedom and limited government to stand up and unite behind a positive agenda and win back America, and it starts right here and right now in South Carolina,” Pence continued.

Pence hit the Biden administration over trillions of dollars in proposed spending to pay for an economic relief package, an infrastructure proposal and a child care and family leave plan. The criticism has become a frequent critique among Republicans, despite repeated deficit spending under Trump.

The former vice president warned of Biden’s proposed tax increases and his pledge to study the expansion of the Supreme Court. He bemoaned that the administration had “joined the woke chorus” by accusing law enforcement agencies of systemic racism.

“In 2020, the American people did not vote for that agenda. They did not vote for the agenda of the radical left,” Pence said. “It’s time to unite behind a positive agenda built on our highest ideals and win back America. And we have the winning agenda, men and women, I have no doubt about it.”

Pence spoke fondly of his time as vice president, calling it “four years of consequence, four years of results and four years of promises made, promises kept.” He touted the Trump administration’s pandemic response, its economic policies and its decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The former vice president glossed over the final months of his time in office, when Trump spread unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was tainted by widespread voter fraud. In the last days of the Trump administration, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to try and halt the certification of Biden’s win.

Pence made a passing reference to a “tragedy at our nation’s Capitol” when reflecting on the past year, but did not elaborate.

Pence’s return to the public sphere came at a time when his place within the Trump world is increasingly uncertain. Pence drew the ire of then-President Trump and his supporters when he refused to reject the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, explaining he did not have the authority to do so. Trump attacked Pence via tweet even as the former vice president was being taken to safety during the Capitol attack.

In the months since, Trump has failed to mention Pence when asked about potential 2024 nominees should he choose not to run again. Trump on Thursday said on Fox Business he would “certainly” consider Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as a running mate if he did mount a third presidential campaign.

Pence has largely remained out of the spotlight after Inauguration Day, when he was the lone representative from the Trump administration to attend President Biden’s swearing-in ceremony. But the former vice president has steadily been creeping back into public life as he charts his path forward for 2024 and beyond.

Pence earlier this month launched Advancing Amercian Freedom, an advocacy group that he said would defend conservative values while opposing the Biden administration’s agenda. Its board members include a coterie of ex-Trump White House officials, including Larry Kudlow and Kellyanne Conway.

The former vice president has also joined the Heritage Foundation as a distinguished visiting fellow where he has a regular column and podcast, and he also was appointed as a scholar at former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) Young America’s Foundation.

In the future, aides say Pence will focus on boosting conservative candidates in the 2022 midterms and that he is likely to consider jumping into the 2024 GOP presidential primary.

But he is one of a handful of Republicans with ties to Trump who are expected to get into the race, potentially crowding the former vice president’s path to the nomination.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been an outspoken critic of the Biden administration and traveled to early primary states like Iowa. Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has also made no secret of her interest in running for president, while Trump allies like DeSantis and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) are believed to be weighing White House bids as well.

Pence delivered the speech just two weeks after he had surgery to receive a pacemaker to address a condition associated with a slow heart rate. His doctors cleared him to resume working and traveling, Pence told the crowd.

“My heart was actually skipping a beat every now and again, which is really unusual because that hasn’t happened since the day I met my wife Karen,” Pence quipped.

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