FORT WASHINGTON, Md.—Vice President Mike Pence spoke to a fully packed house during the second day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 27, starting his remarks by addressing concerns surrounding the impact of the new coronavirus.
Just a day earlier, President Donald Trump appointed Pence to be in charge of a White House coronavirus task force. The vice president—whom health agencies will now report to—said at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center that the task force has been meeting daily.
While the risk to the American public “remains low,” the administration is “ready for anything,” Pence told conference-goers, adding that the current climate “is not the time for partisanship.”
Last month, Trump declared a public health emergency upon word of the outbreak and suspended travel to the United States from China.
“Yesterday, President Trump directed me to lead a whole-of-government approach to address the coronavirus in the country,” Pence said. “And I promise you, we will continue to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear to protect the American people.”
There have been 60 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States, with one American who has been hospitalized and the rest being treated and doing well. Quarantine efforts for American citizens returning from the country have been initiated.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the Senate hopes to take up funding to combat the coronavirus within the next two weeks. The White House has submitted an emergency request for $2.5 billion to bolster efforts to prevent community spread of the virus in the United States.
Pence said, “This president will always put the health and safety of America first.”
“The American people expect us to work together,” he said at the conference. “And I promise you, this president, this administration, is going to work with leaders in both parties. We’ll work with leaders across this nation, at the state and local levels.”
The White House on Feb. 27 also announced the appointment of Ambassador Debbie Birx to serve as the White House coronavirus response coordinator. Birx is a world-renowned global health official and physician who will be reporting to Pence and also join the task force led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Following Birx’s appointment, Pence and HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced the addition of more officials to the president’s coronavirus task force: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, and Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council.
‘America Versus Socialism’
After addressing coronavirus concerns, Pence used the rest of his speech to touch upon the accomplishments and promises kept by the administration, much of it stemming from Trump’s “America First” agenda.
Pence also dedicated a portion of his remarks to condemn the rising influence of socialism within the Democratic Party, in line with the theme at this year’s CPAC: “America vs. Socialism.”
“Democrats have been overtaken by a leftist ideology that history has told us has impoverished millions around the world and robbed the liberties of many,” Pence told the conference.
The citizens living in the freest countries earn “almost seven times more than in the least-free countries,” Pence said, adding that the reality and truth of socialism must be exposed to Americans.
“It won’t be enough just to win the next election,” the vice president said. “We’ve got to win the next generation.”
Venezuela, which was once the second-wealthiest country in the hemisphere, Pence said, now has had 5 million of its citizens flee in the wake of a crumbling economy under a socialist dictatorship. Freedom works, while socialism has failed everywhere, and in every era it has been tried, he said.
Socialist policies introduced by dictator Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have crippled Venezuela in less than two decades. Food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation, and violent crime have driven millions of Venezuelans out of the country, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.
Before Pence gave his remarks, a number of politicians in the morning session also spoke out against socialism, describing how it destroys the economy, threatens national security, and turns humanity upside down.
“Socialism allows the government to choose winners and losers,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said during an earlier segment. “That is something conservatives fight against. We want a level playing field.”
“Here’s the nugget,” she said. “You never have equal opportunity when you have socialism; you have governmental opportunity.”