Vice President Mike Pence took his Faith in America tour to Florida on Wednesday. He visited a women's health clinic that promotes alternatives to abortion and spoke at Starkey Road Baptist Church in Pinellas County.
He gave an exclusive interview to Spectum News' Holly Gregory.
What You Need To Know
- Vice President Pence says faith is key to America recovering from the pandemic.
- He says Florida's fight against COVID-19 is heading in the right direction.
- He's confident Floridians will reelect President Trump in November.
Holly Gregory: Mr. Vice President, I want to talk about your faith in America in just a moment, but can we start off talking about the vote-by-mail issue?
Vice President Pence: You bet.
Holly Gregory: Over the last couple of days, the president has praised Florida when it comes to vote-by-mail, saying it’s safe and secure here. But Florida Democrats have been really touting that, for the first time in a couple of decades, they have a 600,000 vote by ballot request advantage, which is a very new thing for them. How does the president make the point he wants to make about vote-by-mail but not putting himself at a disadvantage here in this swing state?
Vice President Pence: Well first, the American people understand absentee voting. It’s ‘I can’t make it to the polling place or choose not to. I apply for a ballot. It’s mailed into me. The signatures are checked. And Florida has a long tradition of very secure absentee voting, and we have every confidence that that’ll continue to be the case all the way though Election Day. And, um, we’re encouraging all of our supporters to vote in person or by absentee ballot. What the president is concerned about is what we call universal mail-in voting, which is very different from what you have here in Florida. What you see around the country is Democrat governors, Democrat legislatures, are actually taking steps to mail ballots – unsolicited – to every citizen in their state. And then by combining it, as Nevada did, with what’s called vote harvesting, you literally will have millions of ballots distributed with very little control. And people can scoop those up and bring them to the polling place. And so the president and I are going to continue to stand strong. We’re gonna go to the courts. We’re going to fight universal mail-in voting, but absentee voting, like you have here in Florida, is an important part of the political process and will be a part of it. Now, with regard to the advantage, we’re working very closely with our team here, and we track very closely who votes by mail, who votes in person. And while the Democrats have an early lead, what we’re seeing is that it’s actually just many people who, in earlier elections, had voted in person, and it doesn’t represent any additional support. We’re very confident the people of Florida are gonna vote four more years for President Donald Trump, and we’re gonna continue to take our case all across the Sunshine State.
Holly Gregory: Of course, overshadowing all of this, we have COVID-19 in our state. It’s been hit so hard, and you’ve been here several times recently in the past several weeks. And, if you recall back at the end of May, the cases were going down. It was looking like we were in a good spot, and then we had that big surge and spike again. As you’re on the task force, and you see the very latest data – as straight as you can, sir, to let Floridians know what you see right now. I know the president recently said this is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Is the downward trend we’re seeing now looking like something that’s gonna stick this time? Or what do we really think we’re looking at with Florida when it comes to COVID?
Vice President Pence: Well, the coronavirus pandemic has been with us since early in the year. It’s the reason why President Trump marshaled the full resources of the federal government. We reinvented testing. We literally arranged for the distribution of hundreds of millions of medical supplies – PPE, as it’s known to our great health care workers. We worked to develop therapeutics – medicines that help people that are struggling. And even through today, Johnson & Johnson just announced another major step toward obtaining a vaccine. We really do believe that, through Operation Warp Speed, that we could well have a coronavirus vaccine for the American people – millions of doses of the vaccine – before the end of this year. But make no mistake about it, this has been a time of testing for our county, and particularly since a month ago here in Florida and across the Sun Belt, you’ve seen rising cases. But, with the strong leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, with the strong support of our administration, and with the extraordinary cooperation – not just of health care workers in this state – but of everyday Floridians, we are seeing encouraging downward trends. Cases are declining across Florida. Positivity is declining. Emergency rooms are declining. But all of us have a role to play to continue that positive direction. So, we’re gonna continue to urge people to listen to state and local authorities. We’ll continue to spare no expense in making sure our health care workers have medicines and the supplies to give people the same level of care we would want a family member to have. But people taking the opportunity to practice good hygiene, exercise social distancing, or wear a mask whenever it’s indicated by state and local authorities – that’s how we all can play a part and keep that positive trend in Florida – and frankly, across the Sun Belt – headed in the right direction.
Holly Gregory: It’s of course impacted everything, and that includes church. Some folks are scared to go to church. Other governments may have restrictions on congregating, including in churches. We had, not too long ago, a pastor arrested here. You look out in Oregon and Seattle, and you see people burning bibles and crosses and symbols of Christian faith. And you’re here for a Faith in America event. Have you had feedback that people feel like their faith is threatened right now?
Vice President Pence: Well, it’s been a very challenging time for communities of faith of every religion in this country. I mean, one of the joys of faith is coming to a house of worship and being able to pray in fellowship with people who share your values and your beliefs. And, because of this pandemic, we’ve been limited in our ability to do that. But, as we’ve started the process of opening up America again, you hear President Trump make it clear that we wanted our churches open again – our synagogues open again – all of our places of worship. And we’ve given guidance to states, including Florida, about ways that churches and places of worship can safely reopen. And so many are. I was literally in a church in this area earlier today, where they have signs on the pews about which service that pew is open. And we really do believe that, as we open up America again, we need to open up America’s churches and houses of worship because faith is the wellspring from which the American people have always drawn strength in challenging times. I know the faith of the American people has seen us through this time, but working with state and local leaders – making it possible for people to come back together in worship and in prayer – will remain a priority for our administration.
Holly Gregory: And finally, sir, I just have to ask – because so many people in this state have been hurt financially from the virus. When it comes to that extended federal unemployment benefit – as Congress hashes it out, wherever they’re at – is there anything the president can do by executive order to help?
Vice President Pence: Well, the president is considering executive action as negotiations on Capitol Hill continue. Now, we remain hopeful that we’ll be able to reach an agreement. Our priority will be getting direct relief to the American people, and especially to American families, like the $1,200 checks that were distributed before to every individual in the county. We want to continue programs that have made it possible for businesses to keep people on the payroll and to operate. I mean one of the extraordinary stories right now in America is, even as we’ve seen an increase in cases across the Sun Belt, we’re still opening up America again. At the height of this pandemic, we’d lost 22 million jobs, and this economy – on the foundation that President Trump poured of less taxes, less regulation, more free and fair trade – we’ve actually added 8 million jobs back to the economy. And we’re seeing early indications that there’s more good news for this economy right around the corner. But any additional relief from Congress, we want it to be focused on families. We want it to be focused on jobs. We want it to be focused on making sure our health care workers have the support they need. But for those that are struggling in unemployment, we’ll look for an opportunity to extend benefits. We continue to work with Democrats on Capitol Hill, who have so far been unwilling to negotiate. What we want to make sure is that we don’t create an incentive for people to stay on the sidelines as the economy is coming back. And so, the negotiations will continue to focus on that. But President Trump has made it clear that we’re gonna do whatever it takes to be there for families, to be there for jobs, and to make sure that we can open up our schools in a safe and responsible way.
Holly Gregory: We appreciate your time, sir. Thank you for talking to us whenever you come to the state. We certainly do appreciate it.
Vice President Pence: Thanks, Holly.
You can watch this exclusive interview in its entirety here: