What you should know about the new vice president

By Kimberly Winters

John Adams, our first vice president, once described his position as “The most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

Unless the president dies, which has occurred eight times over the last 240 years, the only explicit power of America’s vice president is to serve as the tie-breaking vote in the senate.

However, past vice presidents have taken on a variety of responsibilities. Many, such as screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-3-27-12-pmcurrent vice president Joe Biden, have served as trusted advisers to the president.

Others play a more active role. For instance, there have often been jokes that former vice president Dick Cheney was the real power in George W. Bush’s presidency.

According to the Chicago Tribune, an early sign of Cheney’s influence occurred when Bush allowed him to steer the presidential transition. With this power, Cheney selected many vital members of the Bush administration.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence has also agreed to chair President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

According to the Center for Presidential Transition, this team must fill “roughly 4,000 politically appointed positions, including more than 1,000 jobs requiring Senate confirmation.”

Notable positions include cabinet secretaries, the attorney general and the FBI director.

Pence’s decisions during this process will shape Trump’s future presidency, which is bad news for anyone who hoped that Pence was chosen solely to appease Tea Party Republicans.

With the strength of Pence’s position confirmed, it is important to consider what he might do with it.

While first running for political office in 2000, Pence stated one of his most controversial positions—that money used for HIV/ AIDS research would be better spent on gay conversion therapy.

In 2013, Pence became the 50th governor of Indiana. During his term, he passed several socially conservative laws.

For example, one law banned “abortion motivated by fetal abnormalities as well as other fetal characteristics,” according to NPR, and required “miscarried fetuses, as well as aborted fetuses, to be ‘interred or cremated by a facility having possession of the remains,’ regardless of the age of the fetus.”

This law was struck down by federal judge Tanya Walton Pratt.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-3-27-04-pmPence’s most infamous law, however, is Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. According to NBC News, “The text says that the state cannot ‘substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ unless it is furthering a ‘compelling government interest’ and acting in the least restrictive way possible.”

Pence and the Republican leaders of the Indiana Legislature stated that the bill was meant to prevent discrimination against religious citizens. Liberals, such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, argued that the bill allowed private discrimination against LGBTQ citizens.

The controversy surrounding the bill economically impacted Indianapolis. The U.S.’s largest union of

government employees, AFSCME, moved a conference out of the city, Angie’s List canceled a proposed expansion in the area and the president of the NCAA suggested that Indiana may not be chosen for future events.

This scandal damaged Pence’s reelection chances. In May, the Indy Star had him leading by only four percentage points—within the poll’s margin of error.

While Pence’s recent actions and statements give us a clear view of his strongly-held and highly controversial beliefs, his position before Indianapolis will equally impact the next four years. From 2001 to 2013, Pence served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Pence knows the U.S. legislature. He is well liked by the republicans who are now running the House and Senate. He could serve as a liaison between Trump and D.C. Republicans.

For anyone who still hopes that Trump will bring in a fresh perspective and shake up Washington, keep in mind the vice president standing beside him.

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