During a stump speech in his home state Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence announced a plan to “restore and revive federalism,” including the abolishment of the U.S. Department of Education, the return of block grant funding to states and the repeal of Obamacare mandates.
Speaking in downtown Indianapolis at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Legislative Summit, the country’s largest annual gathering of state lawmakers, the former Indiana governor outlined a five-point plan to give greater authority to states over everything from education and elections to infrastructure and health care.
“It’s important to remember that states created the federal government. The federal government didn’t create the states,” Pence told a crowd of state lawmakers, policymakers and GOP supporters, echoing remarks made by one of his idols, former President Ronald Reagan. “I believe that all of us in the Republican Party hold the keys to the story of America, and I believe that reviving limited government and restoring and reinvigorating federalism in America is a key to a boundless American future.”
Pence also took aim at the Biden administration, noting that this week marks the second anniversary of the country’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, an event that he said has “weakened America at home and abroad.”
His visit comes as former President Donald Trump faces a new set of criminal charges in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump was charged in Fulton County, Georgia, with 13 counts, including violating the state’s racketeering act, soliciting a public officer to violate their oath, conspiring to impersonate a public officer, conspiring to commit forgery in the first degree and conspiring to file false documents.
The White House has been reticent to comment about the fourth indictment against Trump for fear of playing into the GOP’s claims of a weaponized Department of Justice, but Pence hasn’t been shy about his disagreement with his former boss over whether Pence had the authority to overturn the 2020 election results.
“Despite what the former president and his allies have said … the Georgia election was not stolen, and I had no right to overturn the election on Jan. 6,” Pence said Wednesday.
He also praised Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who on Tuesday insisted that elections in Georgia are “secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be.”
But when asked by a New Hampshire lawmaker whether, as president, he would pardon Trump if he were convicted on criminal charges, Pence declined to answer the question.
Despite now facing four criminal indictments, Trump remains the overwhelming favorite to win the GOP nomination, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, once thought to be the party’s next torchbearer, a distant second, according to polls.
Pence will take part in the first GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee next week, though it took him longer than most of the other candidates to reach the 40,000 individual donor threshold. It’s unclear if Trump will make an appearance, but Pence said he would welcome the opportunity to debate his former running mate.
“I’ve debated Trump a thousand times, just not with the cameras on,” Pence said. “I do hope he comes.”
Other candidates that will take the stage Wednesday include Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. and U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.