Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican, said lawmakers offered Pence encouraging words about a potential presidential bid, saying they hope he plays a big role in 2024 and that they need more voices like his in the party.
Pence responded with a smile, according to Bacon, but did not tip his hand about his plans for his political future.
“People said they hope he’s going to be a big voice in 2024. … He was being encouraged: we need more of you in 2024,” Bacon said. “And I would agree.”
Pence, however, told lawmakers that he is focused right now on helping the House GOP win the 2022 midterms and offered to stump for members on the campaign trail, according to attendees. Pence also handed out a lengthy booklet detailing his agenda and policy vision for the country.
Pence’s visit with the RSC, the largest conservative caucus in Congress, marks the first time he has come to Capitol Hill since leaving office, and represents an attempt to maintain key congressional alliances as he explores a potential White House run.
The meeting also comes on the eve of potentially the last prime-time hearing from the House select committee investigating the deadly riot at the US Capitol. The committee has revealed stunning details about Trump’s pressure campaign on Pence and others to overturn the 2020 election. The panel is still weighing whether to ask Pence to speak with the committee, according to members.
But despite a growing rift between Trump and Pence, Republicans on Capitol Hill had no qualms about heaping praise on Pence, a former member of the House who once chaired the RSC.
Rep. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican, confirmed that RSC members thanked Pence for his conduct on January 6, when he refused to give in to Trump’s demands to object to the certification of the 2020 election results.
“Let me just say: the vice president is a real moral force in our party,” Barr said. “He’s a real true leader, and he’s earned the respect of Republicans and other Americans all over the country.”
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, who also belongs to the hardline House Freedom Caucus and voted to certify the election results, is one of the members who stood up and thanked Pence, according to a source inside the room. The comments were met with loud applause, the source said.
Prior to the meeting, Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short, who has testified to the select committee, was standing outside with Pence’s brother Rep. Greg Pence of Indiana and RSC Chairman Jim Banks, also of Indiana, who hosted the gathering. After the former vice president arrived, he greeted the trio and they all walked inside.
Leaving the meeting, Short did not answer questions about Pence’s remarks or the ongoing January 6 investigation.
Pence is also slated to speak at a South Carolina church on Wednesday evening about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, a cause for which he has long championed.