Mike Pence has long been one of the fiscally conservative heroes of the House. He’s also worked his way up into a leadership position; he’s the Chairman of the House Republican Conference. So, when I had an opportunity to do an interview with him to promote the GOP’s America Speaking Out website, I jumped on it with both feet.
Incidentally, before the interview even got started, Pence paid me one heck of a compliment,
Are you familiar with Right Wing News?
Really? I’m surprised.
Yes, I visit you often, thanks.
Does the man know how to get an interviewer on his side or what?
What follows is the slightly edited transcript of my conversation with Mike Pence. Enjoy!
It’s great that the GOP has put together America Speaking Out, which is designed to get people’s opinions about the most important issues. However, what people are going to wonder is: will their input matter? How do they know the GOP is going to pay attention to what they say on that page?
That is a very fair question and my answer will be: people should just stay tuned. In launching America Speaking Out, we are in the process of continuing a dialogue that the House Republicans have been having with the American people throughout the course of this Congress.
…….But what we wanted to do was use the power of the internet to allow some of the best ideas to come forward. This is all about building a governing agenda for this Congress, but it’s not about being a party in search of its principles. House Republicans know what we believe. We’re committed to a strong defense, to traditional American values, to fiscal responsibility, and to economic growth — but we also believe the best ideas in America come from America.
So our challenge with America Speaking Out is to say, “Come and join us in this continuing dialogue. Join us in this conversation. Comment on each other’s ideas and help us as we formulate solutions that will get this country going back in the right direction.”
Now let’s go into a few other areas here. You’re very well liked by the base in general, but your immigration plan — there are quite a few people that weren’t exactly excited about that one. Of course, that was awhile back, so I just want to ask you: Some politicians have changed how they feel about the issue; how about you? How do you think we should be handling illegal immigration today?
Well, I think the issue of proposals that we brought forward with Senator K. Bailey Hutchison four years ago continue to be a source of enormous satisfaction to me. I simply believe that some day down the road we can find an intersection between the rule of law and the deep compassion of the American people – but in the intervening years, what’s become clear to me is that we must focus on border security and internal enforcement first.
I think that the American people have understandably grown so frustrated by a failure to secure our borders and a failure to enforce our laws in this country that the possibility of introducing any kind of a new guest worker program, where people could come into the country and work for a period of time and be able to return home, is frankly not possible today.
We have to restore the confidence of the American people in our commitment to border security and our commitment to internal enforcement. Then and only then do I believe that we could have a thoughtful debate over how we could meet the needs of our economy going forward.
For me amnesty was then and remains completely off limits. I just think it is wrong to, you know, grant amnesty to people whose first act in this country was a violation of our law. But I continue to believe that if the day came that we restored public confidence in our commitment to secure borders and internal enforcement, that we could have a national discussion, a national debate, and come up with national solution to meet our needs with a 21st century guest worker program…
Now you’ve been a strong supporter of the Tea Parties; so people know exactly where you stand – but I think a lot of people are wondering, ”How about the rest of the Republicans in Congress?” What’s the sort of sentiment you hear from other Republicans about the tea parties? What do you think they think?
Many of us who spent the last 10 years battling leaders of our own party on issues like spending and sometimes wondered if anybody back home was paying attention – that wonder, that curiosity is gone right now. It is an enormous encouragement to the men and women in Congress who have been battling for fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, and conservative values to see the way the American people are stepping forward in the Tea Party movement and stepping forward in attending town hall meetings.
The Tea Party movement is being met with and greeted with unbounded gratitude on Capitol Hill among House Republicans and I think it represents a foundation on which we can go forward with a new governing majority and bring real conservative solutions to the challenges facing our country.
If we keep running up deficits the way we are today, do you think what’s happening in Greece is going to happen in this country, too?
I don’t think there’s any question that unless we produce national leadership that is willing to confront our mounting fiscal crisis head-on, that America will be Greece within 10 to 15 years…
We have an opportunity to do two things. Number one, we have an opportunity to tell our allies in Europe that we’re not going to bail out their bad decisions with U.S. tax dollars through the international monetary fund. We have an opportunity to exercise some tough love on our allies and say, “Put your own fiscal house in order. Don’t be coming to the people of the United States of America for loan guarantees through the IMF.” It just postpones the hard decisions that you ought to be making right now.
Secondly, I think we can internalize the lessons from what we’re seeing in Europe, use that to educate the American people, and bring forward an agenda that will put us on a pathway toward fiscal responsibility once again in our national government.
That’s not all about restraint. It’s not all about cuts and reforms. It’s also about growth. The reality is that we have to get this economy growing again. We have to reduce taxes and in ways that will encourage job creation and entrepreneurial capitalism. But we also have to be willing to practice what we preach about fiscal responsibility and entitlement reform if Republicans are entrusted with a new majority on Capitol Hill.
Now, nobody knows for sure what will happen in November, but for the sake of argument, let’s say the GOP takes back the House. You won’t control the presidency or have 60 votes in the Senate; so you won’t be able to fully appeal Obamacare. However, one thing I’ve been pushing since it passed is refusing to fund it. If the GOP controls the House, do you see that as a possibility?
The power of the purse is the most poignant political power in Washington DC. That’s why I’ve said to repeal and replace Obamacare is a two step process. First you repeal the Pelosi congress in 2010; then we replace the Obama Administration in 2012.
But in the meantime, if we are granted a new Republican majority in 2010, we can use the power of the purse and use the appropriations process to slow down and prevent any implementation of Obamacare until such time that we can take our case to the American people to repeal and replace Obamacare with healthcare reform that lowers the cost of healthcare without growing the size of the government.
So it’s a two step process and Americans should understand full well it is a two step process. But, we can make great gains by winning back the House of Representatives for conservative values this fall.
Last question. A lot of conservatives would have loved to have seen you run for the Senate in Indiana this year. I would have loved to have seen Senator Mike Pence. You took a pass on that. Now there are some people who’d like to see you run for the presidency in 2012. So, simple question: Is your mind open about that possibility? If you thought the circumstances were right, would you consider tossing your hat in the ring?
Well first, let me thank you for the compliment about suggesting that I may have run for the U.S. Senate. I was very humbled by the encouragement that we received. As my wife and I prayed about it we literally came to a decision that also bears upon your question. When I looked at the circumstances of my life at age 50, we came to the conclusion that I may have other opportunities to run statewide in Indiana or run for other offices, but that I would never have a better opportunity to turn back the advance of the big government liberal agenda that has taken hold in Washington D.C. than by being a part of a rising Republican majority on Capitol Hill in the House in 2010. My conviction was that I could make the most difference for the things that are most important to me by keeping my hands on the plow and doing everything in my power to restore a conservative Republican majority to Capitol Hill in 2010.
With regard to your other question, obviously I’m very humbled by speculation about that. But, I will also tell you that as my wife and I pray about such matters and talk through them, the only thing we know for sure is that now is the time for our family and for every American family who cherishes limited government conservative values to do everything in their power to stay focused on winning back the American Congress for the conservative values for the majority of the American people.
And we’ll let the future take care of itself.
Congressman, I really appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
OK, thank you for the time and keep up the great work. You’re a great important voice out there.