VP Mike Pence talks trade, reelection and religion during Utah visit

By Dennis Romboy and Lisa Riley Roche, KSL | Updated - Aug. 22, 2019 at 5:19 p.m. | Posted - Aug. 22, 2019 at 10:26 a.m.

SOUTH JORDAN — Vice President Mike Pence said Utah will vote again for President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I think the reason why the people of Utah are going to say ‘yes’ to reelecting this team and this president is because of the record,” Pence told reporters after delivering a speech on the need to ratify Trump’s trade agreement with Canada and Mexico at Merit Medical’s headquarters in South Jordan.

“We’ve been taking the ideas that have worked and created jobs here in Utah and we took them across the country, with less taxes, less regulation, more American energy and free and fair trade deals, and the economy is booming,” the vice president said during his first visit to Utah since before the 2016 election.

Working closely with then-Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, he said, Trump “has actually appointed more conservatives to our federal courts than any president in American history, including two justices to the Supreme Court. We’re deeply committed to the God-given liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights.”

Add to that the administration’s efforts to rebuild the military with historic investments, and Pence promised, “We’re going to drive all the way to victory” in Utah. “As the election unfolds next year, we’ll be back again and again to make sure the people of Utah know about the way this president has kept his promises.”

In his speech, the vice president called Utah “one of the most dynamic, growing, family-friendly states” and said to keep that up, Utahns need to continue standing with the president. Utah went for Trump in 2016 but recent polls, have shown more than half of the state’s voters are ready for someone new in the White House.

“We need Utah to say, ‘yes,’ to President Trump’s vision,” Pence said, crediting free trade, fewer regulations, energy development and other administration policies with helping to add 500,000 jobs — including 12,000 in Utah — as manufacturing comes “roaring” back. “We need to stand strong for what’s working for Utah and for America.”

Meeting with Latter-day Saint leaders

Earlier Thursday, religious freedom and the crisis in Venezuela were among issues Pence and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discussed in a brief meeting Thursday morning in Salt Lake City.

“We talked about the importance of religious freedom, the reality that those of faith are given the right to believe and to say and and to speak in the marketplace or the public square,” said President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Pence was “very much” in favor of people being able to keep those freedoms, regardless of what their faith might be, he said.

President Ballard, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy, met with Pence for about 20 minutes at the Grand America Hotel — where the vice president had spent the night — before the vice president left to deliver a speech at Merit Medical.

“We told him we’d pray for him, and he seemed to appreciate that,” President Ballard said. “We hope he’s praying for us, too.”

President Ballard called Pence a “great man who’s doing his best to represent the office of vice president of the United States.”

Elder Rasband said Pence used the phrase “faith, family and freedom” and “that’s going to go over real well in Utah here today.” He said Pence told church leaders those are important topics for him and for President Trump.

President Ballard said the church leaders told Pence about the “broad expanse” of the interests of the church worldwide, including missionaries abroad, and how important it is to have freedom.

Pence also expressed deep concern about the situation in Venezuela, President Ballard said, adding that the church shares that concern and has a large congregation in the country.

Venezuela’s economy collapsed and shortages of food and medicines have became widespread amid ongoing political strife.

“We’re doing everything that we can to try to see that they have something to eat. It’s a terrible thing that’s happening there,” President Ballard said. “You could sense as he was talking to us about what’s happening there, his heart is hurt to see the people hurting so terribly in Venezuela.”

Pence, he said, was pleased to know that the church is working to help alleviate the suffering.

“Hopefully, someday they can get stabilized and back to the great country that they used to be,” President Ballard said.

Trade agreement

Merit Medical, 1600 W. Merit Pkwy, was lined with American flags Thursday ahead of the vice president’s speech there on the U.S. trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, known as USMCA, which is still awaiting congressional approval.

Several hundred invited guests filled the medical device company’s warehouse, including Hatch, Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Rob Bishop, both R-Utah, and the state’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, who represents the area. His 4th Congressional District seat is a top target of national Republicans in next year’s election.

McAdams, praised for being among just over a dozen Democrats urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the trade agreement to the floor for a vote, said the agreements are an excellent way to promote capitalism and strengthen the economy with well-paying jobs.

“I’ve called on leadership to bring USMCA for a vote this year, and I hope we can resolve any outstanding differences to get this agreement across the finish line,” McAdams said, adding that Utah businesses deserve certainty in their trading relationships.

Hatch said approving the deal should be Congress’ top priority, which he called a shot in the arm for the economy. He said it would support millions of jobs and give the U.S. leverage in trade talks with China.

“As the former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I know a good deal when I see one,” the retired senator said.

Romney said Utah, as a major exporter, understands “that foreign trade supports thousands of high-paying jobs. The USMCA creates more balanced, reciprocal trade that’s better for workers in Utah and across the United States by opening new markets for exports into Canada and Mexico, raising labor standards, and protecting our innovation and intellectual property.”

Bishop said he intends to vote for the trade agreement. He said it’s a fairer deal for the U.S. and puts the nation’s prosperity above all else.

“This agreement promises to bolster small and medium size businesses, American industry, and the country’s global competitiveness,” he said.

After taking a tour of the medical device company’s headquarters, Pence addressed an audience that included many employees, urging them to help pass a trade deal he said would boost the nearly 20 percent of Utah’s exports already going to Canada and Mexico from companies like Merit Medical.

“America knows that Utah knows how to grow jobs. So Washington needs to hear from Utah and hear from Utah right now,” he said. “I know Utah’s influence spans the nation. Spread the word all across the country and tell people that here in Utah, this is a priority for your economy.”

In his speech, the vice president made several Utah references, including comparing the rivalry between BYU and the University of Utah to the division in Congress, and describing the “hard-working people” he said the administration is fighting for as reading “the Deseret News, not the New York Times.”

He also brought up Trump’s last trip to Utah, in December 2017.

Then, the president reversed a “federal land grab,” by shrinking the size of the Bears Ears National Monument, the vice president said, “making a real difference to the people of this state for access to our great national treasures.” He did not mention similar action taken at the same time to reduce the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Calling himself “a small town guy” and quoting the Bible, Pence said he has “confidence and faith, faith in the good people of Utah and of America,” as well as in the president and the members of Utah’s congressional delegation, that the country will come together and continue to make the country safer, stronger and more prosperous.

During the 2016 presidential race, Pence was dispatched to Utah to shore up support for Trump, and assure conservatives in one of the most Republican states in the nation that they could, in good conscience, back the brash and sometime crude candidate.

Gov. Gary Herbert, in his remarks at the Merit Medical event Thursday, made a reference to the differences between Pence and Trump, saying the vice president is “a man of faith, which brings a degree of humility we like to see in our elected officials particularly.”

Herbert managed to praise the administration repeatedly without mentioning the president by name.

Pence was introduced by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as “already the most impactful” vice president the country has ever had and a devoutly religious man.

The vice president’s motorcade left the South Jordan company later than scheduled, about 12:30 p.m., and headed to the general aviation portion of the Salt Lake City International Airport, where Pence returned to Washington, D.C. on Air Force Two.

Utah is the latest state where Pence delivered a speech titled, “USMCA: A Better Deal for American Workers,” part of a series hosted by America First Policies, a nonprofit organization formed to promote Trump’s policies. On Wednesday, he spoke at an energy company in New Mexico.

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