In Jan. 4, 2017 pictures, Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, joined by the House of representatives Paul Ryan of Wis., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mike Pence, who spent a dozen years in Congress before he served as governor of Indiana, has been making frequent visits to Capitol Hill and promising close coordination with the legislators as Donald Trump prepares to the White House. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON – When Mike Pence landed in Congress after the elections of 2000, he was a conservative agitator who often bucked President George W. Bush on the agenda. Seventeen years later, he is the vice-president-elect, and Donald Trump is the man on Capitol Hill.
Pence, who spent a dozen years in Congress before he served as governor of Indiana, is a visit to often with legislators and promising close co-ordination after Trump’s inauguration Friday. In a sign of his attention, Pence have an office in the House as well as the traditional honorary seat in the Senate.
Pence’s role takes on greater importance, since Trump’s ascension to the White House without any experience in elective office.
Trump has some long-term political relationships in Congress and a strained relationship with the Republican establishment, a hangover from the 2016 campaign. Trump’s agenda is not always in line with the Republicans’ priorities, and his inflammatory comments about immigrants, Muslims and women who many in the GOP cringe.
Pence has forged an enduring friendship with the House of representatives Paul Ryan, R-Wis., from their early years in the Congress, together with the other House Republicans of crucial importance for the promotion of Trump’s agenda. In the first meetings with lawmakers, Pence has passed out his personal cell phone number and promised an open line to the administration.
“He is the trusted intermediary. He is the person that people on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue know and trust,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
If Trump is known for his brutal form of disruptive politics, Pence represents the incoming administration in a more traditional manner, illustrated by his polite, Midwestern attitude. He joined Trump in New York on Wednesday for the president-elect’s first press conference since Nov. 8 election. Pence quickly back to Capitol Hill for meetings with a number of senators, including Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Tim Kaine of Virginia. The latest was Hillary Clinton’s running mate and Pence’s opponent in October, vice-chairman of the debate.
“The opportunities to work together on issues such as infrastructure and child care, we think we represent a significant opportunity to be together leaders in both political parties,” Pence said after a meeting with Camp.
Pence early days in Washington were marked more by his role as a conservative purist than a deal-maker.
He opposed the Bush administration on issues such as the president of No Child Left Behind education law and overhaul of Medicare that new drug coverage in 2003. Pence is a leading conservative voice, often with the argument that the Republican government had strayed from conservative principles and had failed to curb the federal spending.
After Republicans were swept from power in the elections of 2006, Pence unsuccessfully challenged Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, minority leader. Two years later, Boehner is a back-Pence in the leadership team, elevating the Indiana congressman to the chairman of the House GOP conference, the party No. 3 post.
One of the ways in Pence built lasting ties with fellow lawmakers was through study of the Bible.
Pence much for Ryan, and House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, for the weekly bible study sessions. House Republicans say these are the types of interactions that will help him in Trump’s management.
“Mike Pence is a House of the man. He gives to us, and he will make sure that we are in the loop,” said Rep. Jack Carter, R-Texas, who also attended the Bible study with Pence.
By having an office in the House, together with the ceremonial in the Senate for his role as the room of the president, Pence will follow a trail by Vice President Dick Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman, who maintained a Home, at the office, during the presidency of Bush.
Pence’s conservative record gives rank-and-file Democrats some reasons to be hopeful that he would be a bipartisan deal-maker on Trump’s name.
Planned Parenthood, for example, mobilized after Ryan said that he was planning to strip federal dollars from their organisation as part of a repeal of Obama’s health care law. The organization pointed to Pence’s anti-abortion record, and the history of seeking to block federal dollars from the health care provider as one of the reasons for the rapid GOP push.
“Mike Pence’s fingerprints are all over that,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president.
But Pence has tried to build some bridges.
When Manchin, a moderate Democrat facing re-election next year, the so-called incoming Trump White House adviser Katie Walsh in the beginning of January to request a meeting with Pence, the senator found himself face to face with Pence just a few hours later. They exchanged mobile phone numbers and Manchin sat down with Pence on Wednesday for a discussion of the Supreme Court vacancy and the federal judicial appointments.
“My job is to try and pathways forward — how do you find a way to fix things, fix things and make things happen? So you have to build these relationships,” Manchin said.
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