Earlier this week, the WaPo reported that Indiana Congressman Mike Pence had been beaten up so badly by the House leadership that he would be backing off his "Operation Offset campaign to cut some of the fat in the federal budget to help fund disaster relief.
But -- as shocking as it may be -- WaPo got it wrong. Pence isn't backing off anything. I just interviewed him briefly about the WaPo story. Here's what he said:
"I would say that the reports of my demise or the demise of Operation Offset in the Washington Post this week were greatly exaggerated.
"House conservatives this week have redoubled our efforts to ensure that as we deal with the catastrophe of nature that we make the tough fiscal choices necessary to ensure that it will not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren. Operation Offset, I believe, has commenced an important national debate both within the corridors of the Congress and the White House but also around a lot of kitchen tables all across America...
"Thanks to the efforts of dozens of House conservatives last week and throughout this week Congress and the White House, I think, are beginning an earnest and sincere effort to find the cuts that are necessary to offset the extraordinary costs of Hurricane Katrina.
"I spoke at the Young America’s Foundation on Monday and the title of my speech was, 'Another Time for Choosing,' and I drew the title of my speech from Ronald Reagan’s famous 1964 address entitled 'A Time for Choosing' and I said then, and believe, that the time in which we live today is very similar to the time in 1964 when Ronald Reagan spoke. We find ourselves at a crossroads in America in the conservative movement. Whether we will renew our commitment to limited government and traditional moral values or we will heed the siren song of the central planner who says big government is good government if it’s our government. Ronald Reagan challenged that boldly, on a small stage in the midst of the Goldwater campaign in 1964. I believe in the wake of the first entitlement in forty years, in the wake of a 'No Child Left Behind' bill that expanded the federal Department of Education by 52%, and in the wake of Katrina relief measure where Congress spent $60 billion without even discussing budget cuts to offset the cost that there is a renewal in the conservative movement around America to return to those first principles that we all know to be true: that the government is too big and spends too much, that the government that governs least governs best and that a society is judged by how it deals with the most vulnerable in its midst, from the unborn to the elderly to the disabled to the mentally infirm. As we go through that renewal and return to those core principles I think we’ll find our way forward."
Looking down from Heaven, the Gipper must be smiling. I am.
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