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Mike Pence grows more assertive amid possible 2024 Trump clash

Former Vice President Mike Pence is getting more assertive in attending campaign-style events and making appearances that seem to pit him against former President Trump, finding a warm embrace from House Republicans along the way.

On Tuesday, Pence spoke at a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner for its “Young Guns” candidate program. And on Wednesday, Pence was welcomed on Capitol Hill by the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, which Pence chaired from 2005 to 2006.

The moves put lawmakers at the crux of tensions between Trump and his former deputy, whom he pressured to unilaterally overturn the 2020 election, forecasting a GOP reckoning on Trump’s role in the party moving forward as both he and Pence eye 2024.

Members at the Wednesday Republican Study Committee meeting broke out in applause after Rep. Chip Roy (Texas) praised Pence for showing courage and commitment to the Constitution on Jan. 6, according to sources and members in the room, even though many of the caucus’s members voted to object to certifying electoral votes.

The former vice president is scheduled to make numerous appearances in the weeks ahead, putting him in direct conflict with Trump in some cases and in others stoking talk of a potential presidential campaign.

Pence on Monday endorsed Karrin Taylor Robson in the Arizona gubernatorial race. Robson is going up against Kari Lake, who is Trump’s preferred candidate. Both Pence and Trump will be in Arizona this weekend to campaign for their respective candidates.

Next week, Pence will speak at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., one day before Trump speaks at an America First Policy Institute event in the nation’s capital. Pence will also travel to New Hampshire in the first week of August, returning to the early primary state and fueling further speculation about his 2024 intentions.

Pence’s busier schedule comes against the backdrop of the House Jan. 6 select committee hearings, where Trump’s role in the Capitol riot has been front and center and raised fresh questions about his viability should he run again for president in 2024. One hearing focused specifically on Pence’s decision to buck pressure from Trump and his allies and certify the 2020 Electoral College results.

The committee is still deciding whether it will ask Pence or Trump to appear before the panel. Its potentially last hearing is set for prime time on Thursday.

But many GOP members are not ready to pick sides in a Trump-Pence clash, at least not before the midterm elections, publicly downplaying or denying that there is any awkwardness or tension with members embracing the former vice president.

“Both men, Trump and Pence, have a role to play in helping House Republicans take back the majority, and each one of them may play a stronger role depending on the congressional districts,” said Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.). ”The president is doing his thing. He’s doing his thing. They’re not mutually exclusive.”

“The president and the vice president had a disagreement about exactly what the vice president’s role was and how much he could affect the procedure itself. And our district gets that, you know. But I think, all in all, that they still like both,” said Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), 

Members agreed, though, that Pence’s welcome by Republican lawmakers this week shows that he still has friends on Capitol Hill, which could be an asset in a presidential run.

Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), the current chairman of the Republican Study Committee, reportedly said early last year that Pence was at “the top of his list” for a 2024 GOP presidential nominee. But Banks has also embraced Trump in many ways, crediting him for bringing working-class voters into the GOP, and countermessaging against the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Pence strayed away from talking about 2024 in the Wednesday morning meeting, lawmakers said, though the topic did come up.

“I’m sure he’s interested in serving, so we’ll see what happens — not necessarily as president, but we’ll see what happens. And we’ll see what his level of popularity is.” said Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.).

Pence has spent recent months speaking to state and local Republican groups, outlining his “Freedom Agenda” that details his policy views on taxes, education, government regulations, foreign policy and culture war issues such as rules surrounding transgender athletes. Later on Wednesday, Pence is set to deliver a speech in South Carolina on the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

He has also campaigned for House GOP lawmakers and candidates and offered to do more for members during Wednesday’s meeting.

​​”I welcome the vice president to come out,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), whom Pence has already traveled to campaign for. “In the end, it’s all about values and ideas and policies. And I think if we can put that up forefront and push the personality stuff to the side, that’s what we should be focused on.”

Some Republican lawmakers have openly expressed anxiety about the prospect of Trump declaring his candidacy this summer, worrying that doing so would undercut GOP momentum heading into the midterms and make November’s elections a referendum on the former president.

“I think we’re going to have a crowded field for president. I assume most of that will unfold later and people will be picking their candidates in a crowded primary field,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters when asked whether he would oppose Trump or stay neutral in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.

But some feel differently, demonstrating the grip that Trump still has on the GOP despite some lawmakers’ opening to Pence. Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) tweeted last week that he wished Trump would have already announced a 2024 run.

“Pence is a great guy, and he’s going to do what he wants to do. I think everyone’s making preparations in case Trump does not run, whether it’s Mike Pompeo or Nikki Haley or any of them,” Long said, referring to two Trump Cabinet members. “If anyone runs against Trump, it’d be foolhardy.”

Tags 2024 presidential election America First Policy Institute Arizona Donald Trump Mike Pence Mike Pence National Republican Congressional Committee New Hampshire Republican Study Committee The Heritage Foundation
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