During the hearings regarding whether or not to impeach President Trump, the vice president has mostly stayed out of the spotlight. But if everything goes the way Democrats hope, with Trump removed from office, Vice President Mike Pence would end up in the center of, well, everything, as president of the United States of America.
If Trump is impeached and removed from office, then Pence would be immediately sworn in as president. That's what happened in 1974, when Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in after President Richard Nixon resigned in the face of impeachment proceedings. And there's no way around the fact that Pence would become the commander in chief, thanks to the 25th Amendment.
"There’s no provision in the Constitution for a special election for president," says Kimberly Wehle, a law professor and author of How to Read the Constitution — and Why. "There’s a chain of succession pending the next presidential election."
Even though it seems unlikely that Trump will be removed from office by the majority-Republican Senate, it's still worth going over what a potential President Pence — who has previously described himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order" — believes.
In 2000, when Pence was running for Congress in Indiana, his platform included a push to ban gay people from serving in the military and divert HIV/AIDS treatment funding to "institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." This was widely interpreted as Pence supporting gay conversion therapy.
Pence also opposed same-sex marriage. Six years later, while serving in Congress, he gave a speech in which he cited research calling same-sex relationships the start of "societal collapse."
But Pence is perhaps most well-known for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in Indiana. The 2015 bill stated that "a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion," and Pence stood by it, despite refusing to answer whether or not the law would allow businesses to refuse to serve members of the LGBTQ community.
After national criticism, with several large companies pledging to not do business in Indiana, Pence signed an amendment meant to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Over the years, he has consistently reframed LGBTQ rights as a fight over religious freedom.
Pence is also famously known for following the "Billy Graham rule," meaning he refuses to eat alone with a woman who isn't his wife. This is generally considered to put women at a disadvantage when it comes to networking and furthering their careers.
He was also the first member of Congress to introduce a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in 2007, telling Vox in 2017 that "if Planned Parenthood wants to be involved in providing counseling services and HIV testing, they ought not be in the business of providing abortions. As long as they aspire to do that, I’ll be after them."
He additionally co-sponsored a bill that would have limited abortion funding for rape survivors to only those who had experienced "forcible" rape. However, he did sign a bill in 2015 that expanded the statute of limitations for prosecuting rape cases in Indiana.
Pence has stuck by Trump in his immigration policies. In Congress, Pence voted against the DREAM Act, which provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. As vice president, he said that DACA — a similar program that shields young immigrants from deportation but does not offer a path to citizenship — would have to go before the Supreme Court.
Pewnce also voted for a bill that would require hospitals to report undocumented immigrants and tried to bar Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana.
While running for Congress in 2000, Pence called global warming a "myth." And while there's some evidence he's come around to acknowledging that humans do play a role in climate change, earlier this year, Pence refused to answer a question on CNN about whether climate change is a threat.
Pence has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, believes that people should be able to carry a gun in public across the nation, voted to prohibit certain lawsuits against gun manufacturers, co-sponsored a bill that loosened the ability to buy guns across state lines, and claimed that Americans' ability to have guns "makes our communities more safe not, less safe."
Although Pence has remained fairly quiet about Trump's possible impeachment, he was outspoken about the topic when President Bill Clinton faced it in the late 1990s.
"America needs to be able to look to her First Family as role models of all that we have been and can be again," he wrote.
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