Pence dodges controversy, and blame, in Great Lakes swing - WNEM TV 5

Pence dodges controversy, and blame, in Great Lakes swing

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The criticism surrounding the White House's handling of Puerto Rico's hurricane recovery and the private planes taken by a Cabinet secretary were nowhere to be found on Vice President Mike Pence's Great Lakes swing this week.

Pence was among friends Thursday -- first Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, then Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, two Republicans he got to know in his previous role as Indiana governor.

And he was relentlessly on message.

"Confidence is back. Manufacturing is back. And under President Donald Trump, America is back," Pence told workers at American Axle Manufacturing in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

The 36-hour trip included fundraising events for the Michigan GOP and the Republican National Committee in Milwaukee, as well as two factory stops.

At times, it seemed, Pence was describing a different world than what was waiting for him back in Washington.

Pence, a former Indiana congressman, was chosen as Trump's vice presidential running-mate largely due to his relationships on Capitol Hill. A former top aide, Marc Short, was tapped as the administration's lead lobbyist for Capitol Hill.

And, with an eye on an early Obamacare repeal push, the Trump administration picked a Pence ally from the Hill, then-Georgia Rep. Tom Price, as health and human services secretary -- and then stocked the agency with former Pence staffers from Indiana.

Those relationships and hires didn't translate to enough votes in the Senate to pass health care reform, though. And now, Price is embroiled in a controversy over his practice of chartering private flights that has put his job at risk.

Pence mentioned none of that Thursday.

"I'm going to make you a promise: Before this session of Congress ends, in 2018, we will repeal and replace Obamacare," Pence said in Auburn Hills -- without any follow-up on how the Senate would get to 51 votes.

Pence also didn't address how the Trump administration would convince Congress to approve its new tax reform push, when all of its other major legislative priorities have fallen flat.

"Our goal, before we get to Christmas, is to pass what we think will be the largest tax cut in American history," Pence said at a metal fabrication plant in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Pence quizzed attendees at carefully staged small-table meetings on why lower taxes -- a simplified take on the administration's major new legislative push -- might help them.

Set aside concerns that the Trump administration's push for tax cuts would benefit the wealthy, he told one man who'd asked.

After the elimination of existing loopholes, Pence said, it's "probably a wash" for the wealthy -- a conclusion at odds with most analysis of the proposal.

As for Puerto Rico, it was the first thing on his mind during his speech in Michigan.

"We are with you now, and we will be with you every step of the way," Pence pledged as he started his only speech of the trip.

Praise was heaped onto Pence at the small-table meetings before his speech at American Axle Manufacturing.

"Thank you for making being a Christian popular again," Jim Thienel, the owner of Berkley Appliance, told him.

Thienel added, "In seven years, when you're going to run for president too, I want to see you here at our Lincoln Day dinner."

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