Republicans Must Follow Reagan's Vision

Rep. Mike Pence, candidate for House minority leader, delivered the following speech to the Republican Conference today.

I know there are many traditions in this room but permit me begin by acknowledging God. He has given my family and my staff the health and strength to give our colleagues a choice: to endure this contest of worthy opponents with grace.

I want to thank my supporters in this room, loyal friends who have stood at my side in this cause, wherever life takes my little family, I will always see you in this moment and admire your courage and your willingness to act on principle whatever the cost.

And to those of you who oppose me, thank all of you for the kindness, even in opposition. Many whom I have dueled with on the floor and in conference showed me the greatest respect.

I haven’t been turned down this often or this nicely since I was trying to get a date for the prom!

To the good men and women of the 110th Congress, thank you for your courtesy and your encouragement. I love you guys.

I am running for Republican leader because I believe we did not just lose our Majority, I believe we lost our way.

We are in the wilderness because we walked away from the limited government principles that minted the Republican Congress.

But there is a way out.

Mark Helprin wrote, "the way out of the wilderness is the truth; recognizing it, stating it, defending it, living by it." Here’s the truth as I see it.

The Truth

While the scandals of the 109th Congress harmed our cause, the real scandal in Washington, D.C. was runaway federal spending.

After 1994, we were a Majority committed to a balanced federal budget, entitlement reform and advancing the principles of a limited federal government.

In recent years, our Majority voted to expand the federal government’s role in education by nearly 100 percent, created the largest new entitlement in forty years, and pursued spending policies that created record deficits and national debt.

This was not in the Contract with America.

Our opponents will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision.

I say the American people did not quit on the Contract with America, we did. And in so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our government and our most dedicated supporters.

And I am not saying this because I bear no blame for this departure.

While I opposed No Child Left Behind and the Prescription Drug entitlement, my opponent voted against the Farm Bill and never requested earmarks in his entire career. I supported the Farm Bill and have requested earmarks every year I have been in Congress.

None of us are blameless, least of all me.

When I say we lost our way, I mean all of us, to one degree or another, lost our sense of true north.

As we choose who will lead us in the days ahead, it is important we learn the right lessons from 2006. It is even more important that we move forward with a renewed commitment to do our duty.

While tragic necessity has placed us in this position, I urge you to seize this day and join me as we return our Conference and our party to the conservative principles that minted our Majority in 1994.

We must reject the path of big government Republicanism that led us into the box canyon of 2006.

Only by renewing our commitment to fight for the principles embodied in the Contract with America can we hope to have the credibility to earn back the opportunity to lead this national legislature.

Let me say a word about my opponent, John Boehner.

I am not running because I think John Boehner did a bad job as Majority Leader. Quite the contrary. I think the guy deserves a medal.

John Boehner is an honorable man and John Boehner is a conservative.

He took a tough job under the worst circumstances and made the best of it and I commend him for it.

I am not running because I think I am a better man. I am running because I think I might just be the best man to lead this conference as Minority Leader.

And the role of the Minority Leader is different from Majority Leader. Each demand different skills and each have different goals.

Our goal in the Majority was to pass legislation reflecting Republican principles.

Our goal of the Republican Minority in the 110th Congress should be to defeat the liberal agenda of the Democrat Party and become the majority in Congress again.

We will only defeat the Democrat agenda by presenting a positive, conservative message in vivid contrast to the big government liberalism of the new Majority.

New Vision

To renew our Majority, we must offer this nation a compelling vision of fiscal discipline and reform.

It is written "without a vision, the people perish." What is true of a people is also true of any political movement.

Our new Republican minority must rededicate itself to the ideals and standards that minted our majority in 1994.

Now, as then, we must pledge ourselves to find a consensus agenda, acceptable to every member of our conference, like the Contract with America, and promote that agenda through policy and persuasion that will resonate with the American people.

We must again embrace the notion that Republicans seek the Majority not simply to govern but to change government for the better. We are the agents of change and we must return to that reformist vision.

New Voices

And I believe we must confront this moment with new leadership and new voices.

We must take a page from the playbook of President Ronald Reagan who taught us that it is not enough to believe great things, we must effectively communicate great things to the American people.

Throughout my public career, I have worked to provide a credible and persuasive voice for the Reagan agenda. I became a Republican because of Ronald Reagan.

My decade as a working radio and television broadcaster combined with the credibility that has earned me the support of dozens of conservative leaders and publications, might just prove that I am uniquely prepared to renew the confidence of millions of Americans in our commitment to core Republican values.

Without the votes necessary to stop the advance of their liberal priorities, our mission will be one of persuasion and tactics.

We don’t just need leaders in the air to member districts, we need leaders on the air.

Each of us must commit ourselves to using our voices and expertise to dismantle Democrat arguments and expose their liberal, big government agenda at every turn.

I see every Republican member as a leader, with unique gifts and talents, and I am offering my talents as both spokesman and coach to bring this team of leaders to the American people.

But our challenge in the majority won’t just be about opposing the Democratic agenda.

There may be one other task.

In 1990 I was a candidate for Congress when the last Bush Administration sided with a Democrat Majority in Congress to pass the largest tax increase in history.

I watched as a Republican president worked with a Democratic Congress to the detriment of every Republican candidate in the country.

As Moses famously said, "I’ve been burned by a Bush before."

As most of you know, I have never hesitated to stand with this President when I thought he was right-even on tough issues like the war.

And, I have never hesitated to oppose this President, publicly and boldly, when he has pursued policies at odds with my commitment to limited government.

This Republican Conference and its new leaders must be prepared to stand up to this President when he is wrong …when he pursues policies at odds with the principles of limited government and the rule of law.

I will represent the Conference to the White House, not the other way around.

As your Minority Leader, I will defend our nation, our treasury and our values.

I will stand with those who stand for freedom and defeat the voices of retreat.

I will fight to renew our reputation for fiscal discipline and reform.

And, while I will exercise and abundance of respect for all members on matters of conscience….let me say with clarity:

This is a pro-life conference and I will be a pro-life Minority Leader.


In 1995, House Republicans wrote the following in one of their first governing documents:

America stands at a crossroads. Down one path lies more and more debt and the continued degradation of the Federal Government and the people it is intended to serve. Down the other lies the restoration of the American dream…we choose the second of these roads.

We are once again at a historic crossroads in the nation’s future.

The result of last week’s election means that America is poised to go down the other path–the wrong one.

Our Minority must stand in the gap and point the path to the other road. We must be a light in the darkness. I brought a weathered pocket copy of the Ten Commandments with me this morning. The card is yellow from nearly twenty years of use. As I was preparing to speak, my eyes fell on a passage I had not noticed before. Exodus 20:20 reads, "Do not be afraid for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you."

Men and women of the Republican conference, Providence has come to test us and I know we will pass this test. We will do the work the American people elect Republicans to do; defend our nation, defend our treasury and defend our values with all we’ve got.

In the words of the founder of our Republican Party, "with malice toward none and charity toward all," I ask for your support for Minority Leader of the 110th Congress.