VP Pence to return to Columbus after inauguration

Vice President Mike Pence plans to return to his hometown today after attending the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Pence, a Columbus native, and his wife, Karen, are expected to fly into Columbus Municipal Airport this afternoon after Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, said Bartholomew County Republican Party Chairwoman Barb Hackman.

The event, described by local Republicans as a “homecoming celebration,” is limited to 50 people and is not open to the general public.

In an announcement from the Indiana GOP, officials said Pence will give some remarks and greet well-wishers and friends at the airport after his arrival.

It is not clear if Pence plans to reside in Columbus after leaving office.

Pence’s office did not issue a news release about the trip before press time, but Columbus Municipal Airport Director Brian Payne confirmed Pence is expected to arrive this afternoon.

As Pence’s term as vice president draws to a close, there has been much speculation about what his plans are and whether he is eyeing a potential run at the presidency in 2024, according to The Associated Press.

Pence, who led the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, spent most of his tenure as vice president serving as President Donald Trump’s most loyal soldier.

But that relationship soured earlier this month when Pence defied Trump’s repeated attempts to pressure him to use powers he did not have to decertify Electoral College votes during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

Trump had falsely claimed on numerous occasions that Pence, who presided over the joint session, had unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted.

Neither the Constitution nor congressional statute grants the vice president any such powers, according to wire reports. It is up to the House and Senate to voice objections, and states’ electors were chosen in accordance with state law, not fraudulently.

During the session, a violent mob of Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol in a failed attempt to halt the certification of Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, resulting in five deaths.

Trump and Pence went five days without speaking with each other after the Capitol insurrection but later had a “good conversation” in the Oval Office on Jan. 11 and came to a détente, according to wire reports.

In 2017, Pence told The Republic that he and Trump had “become good friends.”

Local Republican leaders said they are excited to welcome Pence back to Columbus, including Indiana Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, who said he plans to greet Pence at the airport today.

“I’m expecting Republicans to come out and greet him and cheer on the great job he did as our vice president,” Lauer said. “We couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Pence, who has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” was selected by Trump to be his running mate in July 2016.

The future vice president served as Indiana governor from 2013 to 2017 and spent six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013.

Prior to that, Pence lost bids for a congressional seat in 1988 and 1990 and became a host of a popular conservative talk show in the 1990s, increasing his name recognition.

Pence is a 1977 graduate of Columbus North High School.

He was the top member of the high school speech team called the Bull Tongues, chairman of Fun Day, staff artist for the school newspaper The Triangle and senior class president, according to the 1977 Columbus North yearbook.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.