On November 2, inFOCUS editor Matthew RJ Brodsky interviewed Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana's sixth district. First elected in 2000, Congressman Pence served as chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus in the House of Representatives, during the 109th Congress and has served as House Republican Conference Chairman since November 2008. He is an advocate for limited government, fiscal discipline, a strong national defense, and traditional moral values. Recognized as a national spokesman for conservative principles, Congressman Pence was described as "A New Face of Conservatism" in 2005 by The Washington Post.
iF: What is the most serious threat to the future of America?
MP: Terrorism continues to be the most serious threat America faces, especially the prospect of a terrorist organization or a terrorist state, such as Iran, acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has made no secret of its intent to use nuclear weapons to threaten the U.S. or our allies, including our most cherished ally, Israel. If Iran obtains a nuclear bomb, there is a very real possibility that in a short amount of time terrorist organizations around the globe will also have access to this technology.
iF: The 111th Congress made health care reform one of its main priorities. What do you think should be the main priorities of the 112th Congress?
MP: The priorities of the 112th Congress must include reigning in government spending, creating jobs, and reducing the size of government. Obamacare must be repealed, lock, stock, and barrel, and the Congress must end the era of bailouts once and for all. We must also extend all of the current tax rates so that absolutely no American sees a tax increase next year. These priorities will help to end the crippling uncertainty that is hindering job creation in the U.S. today. Finally, we must never compromise in protecting the traditional values of the American people.
iF: What do you think the appropriate role of government should be?
MP: In recent years the cost, size, and scope of the federal government has expanded at a shocking rate. Over the last five years, federal spending increased from nearly 20 percent as a share of the economy to nearly 25 percent as the government’s expenditures increased by more than 42 percent. These are the highest levels of spending as a share of the economy since World War II. The American people simply cannot afford this spending explosion. Federal spending should not grow faster than a family’s ability to pay for it.
iF: What do you see as the long-term impact of the Tea Party?
MP: The Tea Party movement and the people who have attended town hall meetings and rallies over the last year-and-a-half have sent a deafening message to Washington, D.C. that enough is enough. They want to see us get back to the practice of fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, and government reform. They want to see us get government spending under control and get this economy moving again, and they want to see us do all of that in a way that’s grounded in the freedom and limited government traditions of this country. We owe it to the American people that are standing up and saying “we can do better” to give them better, and in the long-term the Tea Party will help to make sure that happens.
iF: At this point, what can the government do—policy-wise or otherwise—to help create jobs and reduce the unemployment rate?
MP: In recognizing that government is neither the source of American prosperity nor the creator of economic wealth, we should reduce the uncertainty caused by a growing federal presence in the economy and instead establish an environment that allows for the productive use of capital. To that end, the best policy for government is to provide low, stable tax rates for businesses and individuals, reduce the fiscal threat of an out-of-control national debt, and ensure the rule of law in our free markets. This policy would unleash the forces of American innovation and entrepreneurship that have historically been the most effective job creation mechanisms. Only by empowering individuals to achieve their productive capacity and allowing the private sector to grow the economy can we bring down the unemployment rate.
iF: What do you make of the president’s health care plan signed into law in March 2010? Is there a chance it will be either repealed or de-funded?
MP: The 112th Congress must repeal Obamacare lock, stock, and barrel. Once it is repealed, real health care reform that lowers the cost of care and maintains the doctor-patient relationship can be enacted.
iF: There’s been a lot of talk about whether the Obama administration will let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year. On January 1, 2011, will Americans see one of the sharpest tax increases in years?
MP: Unless Democrats take action, hard working Americans will face the largest tax increase in the nation’s history on January 1, 2011. To date, Democrats have done nothing to stop the $3.9 trillion tax hike, leaving small business owners and families uncertain about their futures, and hesitant to spend, lend, or invest. With unemployment hovering near 10 percent, tax increases could not come at a worse possible time. Republicans will do everything possible to prevent these tax increases from going into effect.
iF: What can the U.S. do to break our dependence on foreign oil and become more energy independent?
MP: Americans recognize the imperative of environmentally-sustainable energy independence. The requirements of energy independence and national security demand a free market, “all-of-the-above” solution that utilizes America’s abundant natural resources. Congress needs to reject any notion of a national energy tax and embrace increased exploration and development of all sources of energy, including renewables such as wind and solar. Such a plan would let all types of energy compete in the marketplace and would expand domestic exploration. The U.S. would also benefit greatly from a renaissance of nuclear-powered electricity generation. The U.S. must renew its commitment to clean and emissions-free nuclear energy by accelerating the regulatory approval process for new nuclear applications, by recommitting to the Yucca Mountain as the nation’s spent fuel repository, and by beginning to recycle spent nuclear fuel.
iF: Turning to foreign affairs, President Obama came into office hoping to craft a new image of America in the Middle East. Has he succeeded and why?
MP: Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has been pretty clear on what the “Obama Doctrine” is: actively engage and reward regimes that are openly hostile to the United States and our allies abroad in the hope that they will change their ways, while spurning proven allies of the United States during times of need. Only weeks ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said within eyesight of Israel that “occupied Palestine will be liberated.” Yet Israel, the lone democracy in the Middle East and our most cherished ally in the region, has repeatedly faced unwarranted criticism from the current administration. I have said before that the Obama administration is the most anti-Israel administration in the post-war era and I think it is a troubling example of the “Obama Doctrine.”
iF: How has the Obama administration handled Iran’s nuclear program and what should the U.S. do differently?
MP: The sanctions signed into law this past July represent a real step forward in the United States’ efforts to economically and diplomatically isolate Iran in its rush to obtain nuclear weapons. Undoubtedly, Iran’s pursuit of these weapons is the most pressing proliferation threat the world faces, and it is no secret that Ahmadinejad intends to use nuclear weapons to threaten the United States and our allies. That being said, I believe the administration is lacking a true sense of urgency in confronting the growing threat and it appears as though they may be willing to live with a nuclear-armed regime in Tehran. With the stakes for global security so high, the American president must be a leader on the world stage and demand that the Iranian regime verifiably end their nuclear weapons program.
iF: How important is the Palestinian-Israeli peace process to the United States?
MP: The peace process is important and we should continue to support it to the extent that Palestinian leaders follow the historic Road Map and disarm the militant factions of Hamas. We must not force Israel to make yet another concession, further risking their security. This administration needs to stand strongly with Israel and call for real concessions from within the Palestinian movement.
iF: What is the biggest obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians?
MP: The biggest obstacle to peace is continued terrorism within the Palestinian community. Until the Palestinians can guarantee Israeli security and recognize her sovereignty, it is impossible to conclude a peace agreement. Hamas has used Gaza as a launching pad for thousands of rockets that have killed so many innocent civilians in Israel. There are many in the region today who still challenge Israel’s right to exist and to protect herself, including Iran with its well-documented connections to Hamas militants.
iF: Thank you very much.