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2024 Election

Mike Pence: Trump White House 'could have done a better job of controlling spending'

The former vice president's comments to NBC News came as President Joe Biden and congressional leaders met about the impending possibility of default.
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CINCINNATI — Former Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that he and then-President Donald Trump "could have done a better job" keeping the federal debt in check.

"The trillions of dollars that we appropriated for families and businesses and health care in this country during Covid — it's what government's for during a time of national emergency," Pence said. "But let me stipulate ... we could have done a better job of controlling spending under our administration."

His assessment, delivered in an exclusive interview, came at the same time President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., clashed in face-to-face negotiations over how to avoid a federal default.

Much as Pence acknowledged the Trump administration's role in accumulating debt, he criticized Biden for "runaway federal spending" in his two-plus years in office and said it is up to the president to strike a deal that averts an economic crisis.

"I think it’s incumbent on President Biden to sit down today in good faith and find a way forward that will hold the full faith and credit of the United States," Pence said.

The Republican-led House passed legislation this month that would raise the debt ceiling while paring spending. Biden and congressional Democrats insist that the limit should be increased in a standalone measure that does not include other provisions. The Treasury Department estimates that, without a new law, the federal government will exceed its borrowing authority as soon as June 1.

Despite having called for scrutiny of Social Security and Medicare spending in recent months, Pence — a former member of the House GOP leadership — backed McCarthy's decision to exclude those programs from House cuts.

"I support that decision," Pence said, adding that he agrees with McCarthy's bid to tie other spending reductions to a debt-limit increase.

"The American people would like to see evidence that the Congress gets it, that they understand that we’ve got to make a down payment on fiscal discipline," Pence said. "And the modest first steps that the House has enacted here, I think, is reasonable. And I think Speaker Kevin McCarthy can and should stand firm to make that deal with President Biden."