Name: Michael Richard Pence
Hometown: Columbus, Indiana
Religion: Christian, Evangelical
Astrological sign: Gemini
Previous experience: Governor of Indiana, U.S. Congressman, conservative talk-show host
Years in Congress: 12
Pieces of legislation that became law while in Congress: 0
Candidate he endorsed for president: Ted Cruz
You can’t really refer to any point in Mike Pence’s career as “before he got into politics” because Pence has spent almost all of his adult life as, or aspiring to be, a politician. He ran for Congress the first time two years after graduating from law school; he lost that race as well as his next one, two years later. While waiting to mount a third run, Pence killed time at a Midwestern think tank called the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. After leaving his post there, he fashioned himself into a conservative radio host. (He described his style as “kind of like Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”)
Pence finally made it to Washington in 2001. That year, just as tobacco companies were being hauled before Congress to testify about their knowledge of the health impacts of their products, Pence authored an essay declaring matter-of-factly, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” (He was wrong, of course; smoking tobacco has been definitively linked to cancer.) The same year, Pence authored a second essay calling global warming “a myth.” Climate activists are quick to point out that many of the same scientists who helped author research casting doubt on the links to smoking and cancer did the same for research casting doubt on the links between fossil fuels and climate change.
When he left the House of Representatives to run for governor in 2013, Pence didn’t have much to show for his time there. Over his six terms, he sponsored 90 bills; as Roll Call points out, only 21 of those bills ultimately passed one chamber of Congress, and zero became law. Much of his efforts were spent championing pet projects of the far right, like the effort to defund Planned Parenthood and oppose same-sex marriage.
Some of the most effective Congress members do their best work behind the scenes — Bernie Sanders, for instance, has only authored three bills (two of them renaming post offices), but he is known for helping shape legislation that others write — and some would say Pence fell in that category. The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute apparently believed Pence did enough work behind the scenes to earn an award for his leadership and “willingness to work on comprehensive immigration reform.” He and Trump are not that far apart on immigration, though: He’s consistently opposed immigration reform and a path to citizenship, argued in favor of mass deportations and revoking citizenship for children of immigrants.
Trump and Pence do, however, have a lot of differences on many of Trump’s signature issues, like trade. While in Congress, Pence was a vocal supporter of the kinds of free-trade policies Trump has railed against on the campaign trail, including NAFTA — which Pence spoke warmly of on the House floor in 2001 — and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Another way the top and bottom of the GOP ticket differ: In Congress, Pence distinguished himself as one of the more faithful supporters for the Iraq War. He not only voted in favor of the war, but actually sponsored the resolution authorizing military force. Trump has often claimed on the campaign trail that he opposed the war (though that claim has been repeatedly debunked).
As governor, Pence had a slightly more noteworthy, and notorious, record than he did in Congress. In 2015, he signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, codifying discrimination against Indiana’s LGBT community. The law was criticized by Indiana employers like Salesforce, Apple and Angie’s List, which threatened to boycott the state. Pence was ultimately forced to revise the law.
Just this year, Pence signed another controversial piece of legislation: one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. In addition to requiring private counseling for women who have abortions and, like the Texas law recently struck down by the Supreme Court, requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, the law also declared that all fetal tissue — either aborted or lost to a miscarriage at any stage of development — be cremated or buried.
One other big differences between Trump and Pence? That whole Muslim ban thing. Shortly after Trump announced his interest in imposing such a ban, Pence took a hardline stance against it, calling the proposal “offensive and unconstitutional.”
Find out four reasons why Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence is the absolute worst.