By Philip Klein
Way back during the Bush era, Gov. Mike Pence was one of the few Republican members of Congress that conservatives felt they could depend on. While most other Republicans fell in line with Bush's policies that expanded the role of government, Pence stood firm under enormous pressure from the administration – opposing the Medicare prescription drug plan, No Child Left Behind, and the Wall Street bailout.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Pence led "operation offset," which sought to cut wasteful spending to pay for the emergency outlays required to respond to the natural disaster. He lost that fight, but inspired conservatives.
After Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, I actually argued in favor of dumping John Boehner as GOP leader, because he had joined the Bush spending spree, and replacing him with Pence. Early in 2014, I described him as a proto-Tea Partier and floated him as a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
But things changed later that year when Pence decided to join other big government Republicans and embrace Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. He instantly went from hero to zero for many conservatives who care about limiting the size of government.
Though he was a loyal conservative as a member of the House, he morphed into a dishonest advocate for big government policies, just like the Republicans who he fought against in Washington.
He unveiled a plan that was pitched as a free market alternative to Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. In reality, there were a few meaningless pieces of window dressing that didn't change the reality that he was initiating a drastic expansion in entitlements that will impose billions in costs on federal taxpayers over time.
Ultimately, as is often the case when Republicans reject conservatism, Pence buckled under pressure from big business – in this case, hospital lobbyists that were eager to get their hands on more Obamacare money.
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