Since beginning his long-shot presidential campaign in June, former Vice President Mike Pence has struggled to gain traction among Republican primary voters.
Mr. Pence has consistently polled in the single digits behind the two leading contenders: his onetime running mate, former President Donald J. Trump, and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. The former vice president has broken with them most starkly on their approaches to Social Security and Medicare. He has also carved out clear positions supporting a 15-week national abortion ban and wholeheartedly backing American involvement in the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Pence has made some inaccurate claims along the way. Here’s a fact check of some of his recent remarks on the campaign trail.
What Mr. Pence Said
“I did, this week, call on every other candidate for the Republican nomination to support a minimum standard of a 15-week ban on abortion at the national level that would align American law with most of the countries in Europe that literally ban abortion after 12 to 15 weeks. Our laws at the national level today are more aligned with North Korea, China and Iran than with other Western countries in Europe.”
— in a June interview on Fox News Sunday
This is misleading. Mr. Pence’s comparison is overly simplistic and glosses over how abortion laws in Europe work in practice. It is also worth noting that many European countries are moving toward relaxing abortion restrictions, not imposing additional ones, as The Upshot has reported.
Of some four dozen countries in Europe, almost all have legalized elective abortion before 10 to 15 weeks of pregnancy. All of these countries allow abortions after the gestational limit if the mother’s life is in danger and about half do so for cases involving sexual violence — two exceptions that Mr. Pence has said he also supports. But many also allow for broader exceptions, like the socioeconomic circumstances or mental health of the mother, which Mr. Pence’s proposal does not include.
In Britain, for example, an abortion must be approved by two doctors, but those requests are generally granted up to 24 weeks. In Denmark and Germany, exceptions for gestational limits of 12 weeks are made for mental and physical health as well as living conditions.
At least three countries also have more permissive gestational cutoffs than Mr. Pence’s proposal: Iceland at 22 weeks, the Netherlands at 24 weeks and Sweden at 18 weeks.
In contrast, China allows elective abortions without specifying gestational limits in its national laws, according to the World Health Organization. China also has said in recent years that it will aim to reduce the number of “medically unnecessary” abortions, and at least one province has prohibited abortions after 14 weeks.
North Korea’s laws on abortion are unclear. In 2015, the authorities issued a directive barring doctors from performing abortions, according to the World Health Organization, but “there are no documents after 2015” on the legality of the procedure.
In the United States, after the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion last summer, the legal status of abortion varies widely from state to state. In some, the procedure is banned with no exceptions, and in others it is enshrined as a right with no gestational limits. A spokesman for Mr. Pence cited nine such states as exceptionally nonrestrictive.
What Mr. Pence Said
“Well, first off, look, Joe Biden’s policy on our national debt is insolvency. And, sadly, my former running mate’s policy is identical to Joe Biden’s. Both of them say they’re not even going to talk about common sense and compassionate reforms to entitlements to spare future generations of a mountain range of debt.”
— in the Fox News Sunday interview
This is exaggerated. Asked about his calls to overhaul Social Security and Medicare, Mr. Pence criticized Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Biden’s approaches to the social programs as irresponsible. While both have said they would not cut benefits, only Mr. Biden has proposed tax increases to shore up both programs. But equating that position to one of accepting total insolvency is overstated.
Currently, Social Security and Medicare both face financial shortfalls. The fund that pays for Social Security retirement benefits is projected to be depleted by 2033, and the fund that pays hospitals for Medicare patients will be exhausted in 2031. At those points, the funds will be able to pay for only 77 percent of retirement benefits and 89 percent of scheduled fees to hospitals.
During the 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden proposed increasing taxes on high-income earners to pay for additional Social Security benefits. The extra funding would reduce the program’s financial shortfall, though the revenue would not close the gap entirely. While his latest presidential budget, released in March, does not mention that proposal, it does include a plan to extend the solvency of Medicare by 25 years by imposing higher taxes on the wealthy.
Mr. Trump’s position on social safety net programs is a bit harder to pin down. In January 2020, he said he would be willing to consider cuts to the social safety nets “at some point” — though he quickly tried to walk back his comments and vowed to protect Social Security. His last presidential budget proposal, in February 2020, did not cut benefits to either program, but sought Medicare savings through a dozen tweaks like reducing payments to providers and reducing the cost of prescription drugs.
More recently, Mr. Trump vowed in a speech in March at the Conservative Political Action Conference that “we are never going back” to proposals to raise the Social Security retirement age or cut Medicare benefits. But Mr. Trump has not yet outlined his stance on either program in more detail or addressed their solvency issues in this campaign cycle.
The Pence campaign argued that neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden has a current plan for Social Security, and that Mr. Biden’s plan for Medicare just delays the financial shortfall.
What Mr. Pence Said
“I mean, when I informed the Department of Justice that we had classified materials potentially in our home, they were at my home. The F.B.I. was on my front doorstep the next day. And what we found out was that, when Joe Biden apparently alerted the Department of Justice, 80 days later, they showed up at his office.”
— in a CNN town hall in June
This is exaggerated. Upon the discovery of classified documents in their personal residences, Mr. Pence and Mr. Biden both cooperated with government inquiries. Mr. Pence has a point that the Justice Department’s responses to the discoveries were not identical, but he is overstating the differences.
In Mr. Biden’s case, the searches occurred a few weeks — not three months — after the discovery of classified documents. In Mr. Pence’s case, the search occurred about three weeks later.
On Nov. 2, lawyers for Mr. Biden discovered classified documents at the offices of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think tank in Washington. On the same day, according to Biden administration officials, the lawyers alerted the National Archives and Records Administration, which is responsible for securing such documents. The next day, the National Archives retrieved the documents and referred the matter to the Justice Department. The F.B.I. searched the think tank in mid-November.
On Dec. 20, Mr. Biden’s aides discovered a second set of classified documents at his home in Wilmington, Del. The same day, they alerted the U.S. attorney leading the investigation about the discovery. A month later, on Jan. 20, the F.B.I. searched the residence and seized additional documents. And on Feb. 1, the F.B.I. searched Mr. Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., but did not find additional classified documents.
The discovery of classified documents in Mr. Biden’s possession prompted aides for Mr. Pence to search his home in Indiana out of caution. They found about a dozen documents with classified markings on Jan. 16 and alerted the National Archives to the discovery in a letter dated Jan. 18. The Justice Department, rather than the records agency, then retrieved the documents from Mr. Pence’s home on Jan. 19. Nearly a month later, on Feb. 10, the F.B.I. searched Mr. Pence’s home and found one additional document.
The Pence campaign argued that the Justice Department, in directly requesting the documents from Mr. Pence, bypassed the standard procedures, which did not occur in Mr. Biden’s case.
Unlike the Biden and Trump cases, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland did not appoint a special counsel to investigate Mr. Pence’s handling of classified materials. The Justice Department has also declined to prosecute Mr. Pence while the inquiry into Mr. Biden remains ongoing.
Funding for the military
What Mr. Pence Said
“Since Joe Biden took office, he’s been working to cut military spending.”
— at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July
This is false. Mr. Biden’s annual budgets have generally asked for more funding for the military, and actual spending has increased each year.
Mr. Biden’s first budget, released in 2021, proposed $715 billion for the Pentagon, essentially keeping funding level. That was a 1.6 percent increase from the previous year and a 0.4 percent decrease when adjusted for inflation. In December of that year, he signed into law a $770 billion defense package.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Mr. Biden’s proposals and congressional appropriators amped up military spending even more.
The budget he released in 2022 requested $773 billion in military spending, a nearly 10 percent increase from the previous year. He eventually signed into law an $858 billion spending policy bill.
And Mr. Biden’s latest budget, released in March, asked for $842 billion for the military, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year, and $886 billion total for national defense. That legislation is currently going through the appropriations process in Congress. The Pence campaign argued that this amounted to a cut, as the rate of inflation outstrips the rate of increase.
At the Iowa event, Mr. Pence cited Mr. Biden’s debt ceiling deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as an example of a proposed 1 percent cut to the military. Under that deal, military spending is set at the president’s proposed amount of $886 billion and would rise to $895 billion in 2025. But all spending, for both the military and domestic programs, would be subject to a 1 percent cut if Congress does not pass annual spending bills by January.
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Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to The Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact. More about Linda Qiu
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