Rep. Mike Pence: Our Last, Best Hope

President Bush and Senate Republicans have given conservatives little to cheer about lately, but over in the House of Representatives, a band of conservative Republicans have held firm in conservative principles.

Thanks to the hard work and determination of Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, conservatives still have hope for the future of the GOP.

Pence, the 2005 HUMAN EVENTS Man of the Year and the first member of Congress to start a blog, spoke to a group of 16 conservative bloggers during our weekly bloggers’ briefing today in Washington. Despite the troubles facing his party, Pence offered a positive, can-do message.

If Republicans are to have a chance this November, Pence said the GOP needed to get back to the basics on three issues:

  • Limited government
  • Fiscal discipline
  • Rule of law

“If we fail to do these things,” Pence told us, “I think this fall could bode very ominous for the life of the conservative movement.”

When asked if a GOP loss of Congress might awaken the party, Pence said such an outcome would be disastrous. He cited the Democrats’ willingness to increase the size of government and abandon the U.S. effort in Iraq as reasons frustrated Republicans ought to think twice before pulling the lever for a Democrat this fall.

Pence said he foresaw conservatives’ displeasure early in President Bush’s first term when a group of 25 House Republicans stood firm in opposition to the No Child Left Behind Act. He said it happened again with the Medicare prescription drug bill—the largest entitlement since LBJ.

Other topics on Pence’s mind:

  • He opposes the 527 “reforms” supported by House leadership. Pence told us Republicans are headed down a path that will eventually restrict nearly all freedom afforded to Americans when it comes to elections.
  • He said Republicans need to stand up for a free-market economy. The GOP’s willingness to go along with price-gauging legislation was a mistake, Pence said.
  • It’s inexcusable that Republicans aren’t able to get a bill passed to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.
  • When asked about immigration, he said, “It’s a safe bet the Senate will produce a bad bill on any topic.” He said House Republicans are resigned to the fact that the Senate will pass a bill that includes some form of amnesty.

Coming soon: Pence plans a major speech at the Heritage Foundation next week to make the case for a guest-worker plan. Yes, you read that correctly. Pence will throw his weight behind the Krieble Foundation’s guest-worker plan, which would require illegal immigrants to leave the United States and then apply for re-entry. More on that later.

UPDATE — 10:45 p.m.: A couple other bloggers at today’s meeting have reports on Pence’s talk.

Pence focused his remarks on campaign finance reform, immigration reform, and energy. He has long been an opponent of campaign finance reform, from McCain-Feingold to the 527 reform recently passed by the House. For Pence, more freedom is the answer to 527 reform. Moreover, he worries that restricting political speech leads down the slippery slope to even more government intrusion in the daily lives of Americans. "We are on the road to serfdom in the American political debate," he said.

Tim Chapman of Townhall’s Capitol Report:

Pence drove home the need for "environmentally responsible oil exploration" and his idea is one worth considering. As gas prices continue to rise, those who oppose ANWR drilling will be forced to reconcile their cries for lower gas prices with their insistance that America not explore oil resources within our own borders.