“I think we have to recognize that to renew our land, it will not be enough for renewed Republican majorities in Washington, D.C., simply to cut government spending,” Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) told the Indianapolis chapter of the Federalist Society last week.
“We must demand that renewed Republican leadership… permanently reduce the size and scope of the federal government by restoring to the states and to the people those resources and responsibilities that are rightfully theirs under the Constitution of the United States,” he stated.
That was the main theme of Pence’s speech to a gathering in the capital city of the Crossroads of America. Pence offered thoughts on a range of policy issues from the perspective of having served in both the federal and the state levels.
Pence poked fun at his former job in the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives. “If I had just 12 years left to live, I would like to live it as a member of Congress, because that was the longest 12 years of my life,” he joked.
But his speech to this gathering of conservative lawyers in Indiana was serious. He proposed:
The principles of federalism, which I think were punctuated maybe with an exclamation mark in the Tenth Amendment, were alive and well at the time of our nation’s founding. It’s impossible to read the Constitution of the United States without understanding it as a document of a limited federal government that contemplates that there would be those responsibilities and resources–and those functions of government–many of which would be best administered at the state level.
The governor drew a sharp contrast between his philosophy and President Barack Obama’s, continuing:
Federalism explains a great deal of American exceptionalism and the extraordinary progress of economic growth and influence of our nation over the past 200 years. I believe that reinvigorating federalism in this country is essential to restoring the fortunes of our nation.
Pence said America needs “solutions conservatives,” instead of just voting for Republicans. He talked about the “hard choices” regarding taxes and spending he and his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, have made, possibly swinging at Hillary Clinton, who just released a book by that title.
The son of a Midwestern town, he said of the strategy driving those policy choices: “Because of this, we’ll close out the end of this fiscal year with more than $100 million in an annual surplus, $2 billion in reserves, and a AAA bond rating from all three major credit rating [agencies] in the United States of America.”
The Hoosier State’s governor also trumpeted Indiana’s conservative achievements. He spoke of fundamental tax reform and amending the Indiana Constitution to ensure those reforms would be permanent. He lowered tax rates as governor, and–evidently understanding that taxes on businesses are always passed on to consumers–highlighted that Indiana now has the second-lowest corporate tax rate in the country.
He also held up Indiana’s 2012 right-to-work law as a model for the nation and discussed the national business organizations that ranked Indiana as “one of the best places in America to start a business, grow a business, or get a job.” Tweaking a likely 2016 rival, Pence added that when Indiana bumped Texas off one of those lists, “I tweeted that because Rick Perry follows me on Twitter.”
The governor also went after Obamacare, touting that he was one of the Republicans who led the opposition to the Affordable Care Act in Congress, and blasting Obama’s promise that if you like your healthcare, you can keep your healthcare. “Turns out that wasn’t so much the case,” Pence quipped.
Cautioning Republicans to show what they’re for, not just what they’re against, Pence insisted, “Obamacare should be repealed lock, stock, and barrel. I think it is a principle of personal freedom and personal choice. But any sensible repeal of Obamacare should be accompanied by market-based reforms that expand access to affordable health insurance for every American.”
In that vein, Pence spoke in detail on one of his most significant initiatives, a form of jujitsu on Obamacare. Some Republican governors like John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Rick Scott have completely joined Obamacare by going with its Medicaid expansion, which almost doubles the number of Americans on pure government-run healthcare.
By contrast, in addition to refusing to set up an Obamacare insurance exchange, “from the very moment I became your governor, we [also] ruled out expanding traditional Medicaid. I think Medicaid is a deeply flawed system that disserves people who are enrolled in it.”
The problem with expanding Medicaid is “many physicians… can attest to the fact that a lot of doctors are not taking Medicaid patients anymore because of the [low] compensation rates and because of the red tape.”
Instead of refusing Medicaid funds outright, Pence is in the final stages of negotiating a deal with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to take all the expanded Medicaid money and put it into HSAs (personal healthcare savings accounts) for all Hoosiers joining the program, called the Healthy Indiana Plan.
Pence explained that he is enthusiastic about this policy because:
I truly believe consumer-driven healthcare is the future of healthcare in this country. There are really only two futures ahead of us in healthcare: government-driven healthcare and consumer-driven healthcare… We’re going to create what we call POWER Accounts–most people know them as health savings accounts–where people make a contribution and take greater ownership of their own health choices. They have incentives to participate in preventive medicine and wellness. They move from emergency room care to primary care.
He explained that this system is already in place for 95 percent of Indiana’s employees and that some estimates show it reduces healthcare costs by up to 25 percent.
Pence is also seeking to add as a feature to the program, “for the first time ever, if given the opportunity, a premium assistance program for working Hoosiers who would have the opportunity to access these resources to purchase health insurance through their own employer.
He then pivoted back to his main theme. “Federalism was Reagan’s unfinished work,” Pence said, quoting President Reagan saying, “It’s my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal government.”
The governor added that voters should not settle for a president who promises to run the federal government like a state. Instead, voters must demand a candidate who says, “Send me to Washington, D.C., and I’ll make it more possible for the next person running my state to run it with more freedom and more flexibility, to solve the problems facing their people with solutions that are designed by their people.”
Pence promised that it will not be easy to pry power away from Congress or federal agencies, because it’s the “first impulse” of government “to hang on to what you’ve got.” But it sounds like Mike Pence is preparing to ask the American people to give him the chance to fight for it.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.