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Putting a New Face On Conservatism

Democrat Melina "Mel" Fox, who lost to Pence in the last two congressional elections, told the Indianapolis Star last fall that Pence had paid too little attention to the needs of his district. In October, Fox was quoted by the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel in Indiana as saying that Pence "is really [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay's voice out here. His agenda is the extreme right."

Pence has shown that he is not afraid to take unpopular stands. In the last Congress, he defied Bush, spearheading Republican opposition to the Medicare drug benefit that Bush wanted and speaking out against the president's signature education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act.

Rep. Mike Pence is head of the Republican Study Committee, a group of Congress's most conservative lawmakers. (Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

In Profile

Mike Pence

Title: Representative, Republican from Indiana.

Education: Bachelor's degree in history, Hanover College;

law degree, Indiana University.

Age: 45.

Family: Married; three children.

Career highlights: Chairman, House Republican Study Committee; radio talk show host, "The Mike Pence Show"; president, Indiana Policy Review Foundation; practicing attorney.


Horseback riding, reading.

Book currently reading: "Washington's Crossing" by David Hackett Fischer.

Favorite movie:

"The Wizard of Oz."

_____More Players_____
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A Detail Guy With a Broad Perspective (The Washington Post, Feb 28, 2005)
A Faith-Based Mission for Change (The Washington Post, Feb 15, 2005)
Balancing Nevada, National Interests (The Washington Post, Feb 1, 2005)
Players Archive

"I was concerned that the ship of conservative governance was veering off course into the dangerous uncharted waters of big government Republicanism," Pence said.

Although Pence lost those battles, he has not given up. Before the current legislative session began, he vowed to try to roll back the landmark education law, or at least stop it from being extended to the secondary school level. And he said that the government should apply a means test to Medicare drug benefits, limiting the program to those in financial straits, so that costs remain under control.

On Social Security, Pence said he favors Bush's idea of creating personal accounts that would allow younger workers to invest some of their tax contributions in exchange for a smaller guaranteed benefit. He would not support raising taxes or increasing the income level subject to Social Security payroll taxes to pay for transition costs that he acknowledges are in the neighborhood of $1 trillion to $2 trillion. Through a spokesman, Pence said he favors borrowing the money to cover the fiscal gap, saying the move would save money in the long run.

Pence also backs a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, saying he is against the procedure in all cases -- including rape and incest -- except when the life of the mother is at stake. He has co-authored legislation that he says would prevent the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, from ordering judges to remove the Ten Commandments or other "acknowledgment[s] of God" from their courtrooms, leaving such matters in the hands of state courts.

"The most secular, atheist historian on the planet would have to grant that the entire legal system of Western civilization pivots off those tablets," Pence said. "And so the idea that, whether it be in Alabama or elsewhere, that states or public officials can't acknowledge a God or acknowledge that list of principles without violating the Constitution, I think, is anti-historical. And I think it's offensive to most Americans."

Although Pence's new post may raise his profile nationally, it could be a drawback if he ever runs for statewide office in Indiana, whose two senators are Republican Richard G. Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh, said Mike Edmondson, executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party.

"Hoosiers support bipartisan consensus," Edmondson said. "Overly partisan members don't really represent the normal mold of Indiana politicians. Most of our elected leaders are moderate and work towards bipartisan consensus either in Congress or the Senate or at the state level."

There is no question about where Pence stands on the issues, according to Rep. Sue Myrick (N.C.), his predecessor as leader of the Republican Study Committee.

"Mike is a true believer in the conservative cause," Myrick said in a statement. "I know that he will carry on the torch and will keep the RSC on the conservative path."

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