Tuesdays With Mitch: Pence to Join Republicans’ Lunch Group

Donald Trump’s stunning victory set congressional leaders scrambling for a strategy to guide their work with the new administration. And, as is so often the case, their instincts are leading them back to the tried-and-true model they used with the Bush White House.

That’s especially the case with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who worked closely with the George W. Bush administration to help it push through its legislative agenda, including tax cut packages and huge war spending bills.

Left to right: Vice President-elect Pence, Sen. McConnell, President-elect Trump

McConnell, who served as the Republican whip from 2003 to 2007, in particular worked closely with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who often cast tie-breaking votes in the chamber to advance the president’s priorities.

McConnell recently said he so valued Cheney’s attendance at Republicans’ weekly policy luncheons that he now has decided he wants Vice President-elect Mike Pence to take up where Cheney left off. 

“He was at many of our Tuesday lunches,” said McConnell, who has Cheney’s vice presidential bust positioned next to his office door. “And you know, Dick Cheney was a classic guy who didn't necessarily say anything all the time. But he was like a sponge absorbing what our concerns were. And he acted almost like President Bush's Senate liaison.”

Cheney bust

McConnell said he’s already told Pence about the role he wants him to fill. “I hope he will attend our Tuesday policy lunches when he's in town and be our liaison between the administration and the Senate, much like Vice President Cheney was.”

While some have wondered how much McConnell shares in common with the billionaire Trump, the Republican leader and Pence have similar backgrounds. Besides serving in Congress during the same period, the two men hail from the same area along the Ohio River. 

Pence’s hometown of Columbus, Ind., is little more than an hour’s drive straight up Interstate 65 from Louisville, Ky. His alma matter, Hanover Colleg, is only 43 miles from the Kentucky border. Indiana’s sixth congressional district that Pence served borders McConnell’s home state.

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who previously served in the House with Pence, told Bloomberg BNA that other Republicans believe he has Trump’s ear and looks forward to working with him.

“He’s a people person, and he knows that how you get things done is through relationships,” Boozman said.