Mike Pence Feels Right at Home

Vice president urges quick confirmation of SCOTUS pick

Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan talk as President Donald Trump speaks at the congressional Republicans’ retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Pool)
Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan talk as President Donald Trump speaks at the congressional Republicans’ retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Pool)
Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:22pm

PHILADELPHIA — Vice President Mike Pence took a long pause after thanking the Senate for confirming a few of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, and then pushed for faster action when it comes time to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat.

“The success of our policies depends first and foremost on the
confirmation of this world-class Cabinet the president has nominated,” Pence told lawmakers here Thursday. “We’re pleased that a few have been confirmed by the Senate … but we’d sure like to see the rest in short order sent to their duty stations.”

Before departing for the congressional Republicans’ issues retreat, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to limit debate on Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO. There’s also an agreement on a confirmation vote for Elaine L. Chao to be Transportation secretary, but a slew of senior posts are still outstanding.

“We hope you’ll move even faster when the president announces our nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States,” Pence said.

Pence drew cheers and a standing ovation when it came time to discuss that selection, confident that the president would not change course and select a more moderate nominee. Trump has said he plans to announce a nominee for the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February in one week.

In an interview scheduled to air later Thursday on Fox News, the president said he would back the deployment of the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules to allow confirmation of his high court selection with just a simple majority.

“I would. We have obstructionists,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. When Senate Democrats invoked the “nuclear option” for lower court nominees in 2013, it provoked howls of protest from Republicans. Veterans of the Senate on both sides of the aisle are loath to tamper with the rules further.

“You all know about the list, and President Trump has been reviewing that
list,” Pence said of a list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees released by Trump last year during his campaign for the White House. “I can already tip you off. President Trump is going to keep his promise to the American people that he’s going to nominate a strict constructionist to the Supreme Court.”

While Pence drew the unenviable task of speaking to the lawmakers as Trump headed for the airport, the vice president was right at home at the annual GOP retreat, which is the kind of event he used to organize as chairman of the House Republican Conference before he became Indiana’s governor.

Pence also drew a standing ovation in discussing executive actions Trump has taken in his first week, particularly the return and expansion of a policy blocking federal funds from flowing to abortion services overseas.

“He’s already signed historic executive orders on Obamacare, on trade,
the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, rolling back regulations, starting to
build that border wall, enforcing the laws of this country, and the
sanctity of life and more,” Pence said. “Just this week, this pro-life
president reinstated the Mexico City policy banning public funding of
abortion.”

“If there’s a problem the White House can fix, rest assured, President
Trump and I are going to roll our sleeves up and act swiftly to solve
it,” he said. “What he won’t do, however, is follow the last administration’s example of trying to bypass the people’s elected representatives. The president and I have a profound respect for Congress’ constitutional role, so I can say, unequivocally, that President Trump and I will forge a strong working relationship with the Congress and with all of you to enact the laws that will serve the interest of the American people.”

Former President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders and memoranda was a frequent punching bag for the GOP. Obama’s overall use of executive orders fell short of other recent two-term presidents of both parties, according to a tally kept by the American Presidency Project.