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'A real moral force': Conservatives praise Pence for being courageous on Jan. 6

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, stood up during a private gathering of House Republicans and thanked Pence for "standing for the Constitution and certifying” Joe Biden’s election win.
Image: Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence Jan. 6
Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence preside over a joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 Electoral College results on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington.Erin Schaff / Pool via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Some House Republicans praised former Vice President Mike Pence for certifying the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021, and encouraged him to run for president in 2024 in a closed-door gathering Wednesday.

During a meeting of the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of conservatives in Congress, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, stood up and thanked Pence for his “courage and standing for the Constitution and certifying" President Joe Biden's election win, according to Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., and two other Republicans who attended the meeting.

Roy's comments received "sustained applause" in the room, Hill told NBC News. “I commend Vice President Pence for standing for the Constitution and doing his duty under duress," Hill said.

“Let me just say the vice president is a real moral force. He’s a real true leader and he’s earned the respect of Republicans and other Americans all over this country,” Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., told reporters as he left the meeting at the Capitol Hill Club, near the Capitol complex.

Later in the meeting, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told Pence he appreciated him engaging with lawmakers and asked if he had any plans to run for the Oval Office in 2024, according to a lawmaker in attendance who discussed the private meeting on condition of anonymity.

Leaving the meeting, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., told reporters “people were encouraging him in there” to run for president.

Pence, who has been girding for a potential presidential bid in 2024, replied that he and his wife Karen are focusing on helping Republicans take back the House and Senate in the midterm elections this fall, launching his new book later this year, and considering their next steps for the future.

Representatives for Pence and Issa did not provide any response when reached for comment.

After his visit to Congress, Pence headed to South Carolina, an early presidential primary state, where he is giving a speech on the "Post-Roe World" at a church in the city of Florence.

“I’m a fan of him,” Bacon said. “I’m not here to push him one way or the other way. But I like what Vice President Pence stands for. I like his character.”

The former vice president “talked about how Republicans can put forth an agenda to help us win and not just win in November but to focus on when we get the majority back,” said RSC Chair Jim Banks, R-Ind., a hoosier like Pence. “And the agenda was well received.”

Pence previously led the RSC from 2005 to 2007 when he was a member of the House.

Banks, who has invited a parade of potential 2024 GOP candidates to speak to his group, declined to say if they had discussed Jan. 6 during the meeting.

Image: Jim Banks Mike Pence
Rep. Jim Banks greets former Vice President Mike Pence at the Capitol Hill Club ahead of a private meeting with House Republicans in Washington on July 20, 2022.Kyle Stewart / NBC News

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack are scheduled hold a primetime hearing on Thursday, focused on Trump’s failure to act for more than three hours as a violent mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol — with some chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” — in an effort to keep Trump in power.

Pence had rejected Trump’s demands that he block certification of the election results and send electoral votes back to swing states that had gone for Biden. Amid the riot, the Secret Service escorted Pence and his family to a secure location and planned to whisk him away from the Capitol. But the vice president insisted he stay and later returned to fulfill his duty, certifying Biden's win.

Months after the insurrection, Pence said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library that he was proud of his team’s actions that day, adding that he had no authority under the Constitution to overturn the election.

“The truth is there’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” Pence said June 2021. “The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone.”