Vice president-elect Mike Pence claimed Tuesday night that President-elect Donald Trump has a “mandate” to lead the country, as he ticked through a long list of conservative priorities for the new administration in what he vowed would be a busy first few months in office.
In a speech inside a hotel ballroom at the new Trump International Hotel just blocks from the White House, Pence vowed that the new team will quickly embark on a to-do list that includes repealing and replacing the federal health-care law, beefing up national defense and nominating a staunchly conservative Supreme Court justice.
In delivering his remarks, the Indiana governor and former congressman seemed to be seeking to reassure his audience that Trump would consistently govern with their policy interests in mind. Trump’s lack of government experience has raised some questions about what his style will be like in the White House and whether it will be a dramatic departure from previous Republican presidents.
“We truly believe that our president-elect has secured a mandate for leadership,” said Pence. He spoke to a dinnertime audience of wealthy donors to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Emphasizing that the organization’s input would be valued, he said, “I want to assure all of you who are the patrons of the Heritage Foundation that this administration has already, is now and will continue to draw on [the group’s] intellectual resources and creativity.”
Currently, Democrat Hillary Clinton is ahead of Trump in the popular vote by more than 2.6 million votes, though Trump won more electoral votes. Her lead, and lingering signs of political divisions across the country that have emerged since the election, have raised questions about what level of national support Trump will have when he takes office.
But Pence, who was on Capitol Hill meeting with Republican senators earlier Tuesday, said the new administration is ready to deliver on the promises that Trump made during the campaign.
“It was a victory that was born of ideas,” he said.
The federal health-care law would be repealed and Republicans will be “starting the process of replacing” it “with free market solutions,” Pence said. He said Trump would appoint a conservative justice “in the tradition” of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He declared “the Obama era of weakening our national defenses is over.”
Before the spring arrives, “we’re going to cut taxes across the board,” Pence said.
Pence also praised Trump for his role in a deal with furnace and air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier to keep about 800 jobs in the United States. Trump repeatedly called out Carrier during the campaign for moving some jobs to Mexico.
The deal Carrier reached drew criticism from some conservatives who branded it “crony capitalism.” Pence sought to assure the crowd that he and Trump “believe fervently in the free market.”
Toward the end of his speech, Pence singled out former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina for praise. After he acknowledged her presence at the dinner, the crowd rose to its feet to applaud her.
Pence repeatedly praised the Heritage Foundation, which is headed by former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint. Edward Feulner, the former president of the Heritage Foundation, has been working on Trump’s transition team.
Pence wrapped up his address by reminding the audience the new administration and the new Republican Congress will have a lot to do in 2017.
“We’ve got work to do. Enjoy your dinner. Then roll your sleeves up,” he said.