US Vice President Mike Pence waved at supporters at the end of a rally in Kinston, North Carolina on October 25, 2020.
Jonathan Drake | Reuters
Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to travel abroad for the first time during the Kovid-19 pandemic just hours after presiding over a congressional session in which President-Elect Joe Biden will be formally declared the winner of the November contest against Donald Trump .
According to a government document obtained by NBC News, Indiana will include stops in Bahrain, Israel and Poland on January 6 to the US for the Republican visit. Pence will be abroad from January 11.
The itinerary, which an administration official said is subject to change, has double benefits for Pence.
He is expected to use his last visit as Vice President to take advantage of the administration’s foreign policy achievements, including normalization of relations between several Gulf states, including Israel and Bahrain.
It would also allow Pence to dispel his own presidential ambitions, sparking rumors of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris exiting Washington after doing the odd job of declaring his and Trump’s defeat .
The yatra closes on the same day that Congress formally meets for the President and Vice President for a joint session to count the electoral votes. Under federal law, the president of the Senate – a role held by the vice president – is charged with presenting the electoral votes and announcing the winner.
The job is a politically inconvenient one for Pence, given that Trump set the precedent by refusing to give up. Biden garnered 306 votes, 36 more than the 270 needed for victory. Trump won 232 electoral votes. The Electoral College formally voted on Monday.
Pence has been in lockstep for four years of his administration with Trump, remaining in the White House as a loyal ally who suffered from unusually high turnover and frequent incursions. But the Vice President remains largely in the background as Trump attempts to reverse the results of the November 3 election. Nevertheless, Pence has been a supporter of the president’s baseless claims of election fraud, and has not publicly acknowledged Biden’s victory or congratulated the former vice president.
Other senior Republicans are slowly beginning to accept election results, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. On Tuesday, McConnell urged his fellow Republicans not to attempt to block Biden’s declaration of victory.
The Vice President’s office declined to comment on NBC News. Politico, who previously reported on the trip, cited Pence’s colleagues who said there was no suggestion that Pence would not perform his statutorily mandated duties.
Pence’s role in presiding over the January 6 Congress session is a formality, and he has no say in selecting the winner of the election. On at least one previous occasion in which the vice president refused to preside, in 1969, the Senate presidential supporter Tempore has worked according to the Congressional Research Service. This year, the presidential supporter is temporary Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
In addition to political considerations, the timing of Pence’s visit may also be related to the recent approval of the first vaccine designed to prevent coronovirus. The Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine made for emergency use by Pfizer earlier this month.
Pence, the leader of the White House Coronovirus Task Force, has not traveled before the Kovid-19 epidemic spread across America. The White House said that on Friday, it would publicly receive one of the first doses of the vaccine.
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