President Donald Trump’s vice president and top aides delivered one overriding message Thursday to the thousands of conservative activists gathered for their annual conference outside of Washington: Don’t blow it.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump’s victory provided the nation with what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to install conservative solutions to the nation’s problems.
“This is the chance we’ve worked so hard, for so long, to see. This is the time to prove again that our answers are the right answers for America,” Pence said.
The vice president said the Trump administration would soon take aim at the sweeping health care law approved under former President Barack Obama, saying the nation’s “Obamacare nightmare is about to end.” He said Republicans would implement a new plan and would have “an orderly transition to a better health care system.”
Watch Pence’s remarks in the player above.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the conference Friday.
Earlier, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus pleaded for patience and unity, urging activists not to squander the Republican Party’s control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. Trump adviser Steve Bannon made his case for a governing strategy based on aggressive deregulation and an “economic nationalism” in negotiating new free trade deals.
“What you’ve got is an incredible opportunity to use this victory,” Priebus said. Some of Trump’s plans for creating jobs and putting more money in people’s pockets will take time, he said. “We’ve got to stick together and make sure we have President Trump for eight years.”
Priebus’ pleas acknowledged conservatives’ underlying skepticism about the new president, a former Democrat who in the past has elicited boos at the conference. Trump has often suggested he doesn’t prioritize the social issues many conservatives elevate, and his proposal for a massive infrastructure bill has cast doubts about his commitment to curb government spending.
But with a Republican in the White House for the first time in eight years, many activists say they feel energized and more than willing to give him a chance.
Many in the audience chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” as Bannon and Priebus made a joint appearance on stage. The duo’s chummy joint interview seemed designed to refute media reports that they do not get along and are occasionally working at cross-purposes in a factionalized White House.
Priebus presented their partnership as evidence that conservatives and Trump supporters can work together.
“The truth of the matter is Donald Trump, President Trump, brought together the party and the conservative movement,” he said. “If the party and the conservative movement are together, similar to Steve and I, it can’t be stopped.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urged the activists to “engage” and “be loud” in the face of politicians who stand in the way of changing the education system.
“We have a unique window of opportunity to make school choice a reality” for millions for families, she said.