Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday highlighted sharp differences with his former boss, rejecting ex-President Donald Trump‘s stances on the debt ceiling and Ukraine while stoking more speculation about his 2024 presidential ambitions.
“When it comes to the debt ceiling, failure is not an option,” Pence said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We can’t accept default, we can’t minimize the impact that would have on American families and American credibility in the world.”
Pence’s remarks came in response to a question about Trump’s recent call for Republicans to let the U.S. default on its debt if Democrats will not agree to “massive” spending cuts. The White House and congressional leaders are in deep negotiations to prevent a default by early June, which is when the government could run out of money to pay its bills.
The former vice president also accused Trump and President Joe Biden of holding “identical” spending-heavy fiscal policy views, even as he called to make permanent the “Trump-Pence tax cuts” of 2017.
But when he was asked about whether defense spending cuts could be part of a plan to return to “fiscal solvency,” Pence balked.
“At a time when China is literally floating a new battleship every month and continuing military provocations across the Asia-Pacific and Russia’s waging an unprovoked war in Eastern Europe, the last thing we ought to be doing is cutting defense spending,” Pence said.
Pence is openly weighing a campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and his remarks Wednesday morning — delivered from the key primary state of New Hampshire, where he was set to appear at multiple events this week — offered more hints about his plans.
“We’ll let our intentions be known, I’m confident, before the end of June,” Pence said of his possible presidential campaign announcement. “The reason I came here to New Hampshire in part is because when you’re in New Hampshire, it seems like you get a little bit more attention when you’re talking about things that matter.”
Trump is currently the clear polling favorite in the Republican primary field, even when including figures like Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to mount a competitive presidential bid in the coming weeks.
Pence reaffirmed his view that there will be “better choices” than Trump for president in 2024, before rattling off a number of his policy disagreements with the front-runner.
“The [former] president and I have a difference in terms of American leadership in the world. I think we need to lean in and support the Ukrainian military and repel the Russian invasion. I think that’s in our interest and the interest of the free world,” Pence said.
Trump has called for an immediate end to the conflict in Ukraine, which began when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion into the neighboring nation. Trump, who in the past has praised Putin, has offered few details about how that peace could be achieved. In a recent CNN town hall, Trump would not say which nation he thought should win the war, and refused to say if he thought Putin was a war criminal.
Pence said that backing Ukraine “also sends a decisive message to China with their military provocations.”
On foreign policy and domestic issues, the U.S. has “got to demand leadership that will stand firm and achieve these things,” Pence said, before touting his lengthy record in politics. “I know what can get done.”