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Pence urges Republicans to focus on future elections

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday laid out his “Freedom Agenda,” a set of policy recommendations he’s proposing for Republicans if they take back the majority.

Why it matters: Pence’s recommendations come as he is ramping up his travel ahead of a likely 2024 presidential run — and hours before former President Trump returns to D.C. for the first time since his presidency ended.

Driving the news: Pence, who mentioned former President Trump only when touting policy accomplishments of the administration, distanced himself from the former president by encouraging Republicans to focus on future elections and not relitigate the 2020 election.

Trump continues to make false claims about the 2020 election. “Some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future. And I believe conservatives must focus on the future to win back America,” he said at the Young America’s Foundation annual conference.”We can’t afford to take our eyes off the road in front of us,” he said. “I don’t know that the president and I differ on issues. But we may differ on focus. I truly believe that elections are about the future.”

Pence embraced the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, saying: “We sent Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

“Save the babies, we’ll save America,” he said and called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Between the lines: Abortion is one of the key policy issues on which the former vice president has sought to define himself as more unabashedly conservative than the former president, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports.

Pence also touched heavily on “culture war” issues, including critical race theory and school choice.

“We need to purge our schools of critical race theory and restore patriotic education in every classroom in America,” he said. “The time has come to allow every family to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income or area code.”

Pence condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it an “unconscionable war of aggression.”

“Conservatives must make it clear that Putin must stop or Putin will pay,” Pence said.”We need to continue to put economic pressure, we need to continue to isolate Russia until peace is restored for the good people of Ukraine.”

Pence called China the “greatest threat” to the U.S. economy and liberty in the 21st century.

“We must continue to bring economic pressure on China, we must hold China accountable for trade abuses, speak out on human rights, and America must be prepared for the great power competition with the Chinese Communist Party and a resurgent Russia.”

State of play: Pence, who has emerged as a key figure in the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation of the Capitol riot, only briefly touched on that day, calling it a “tragic day in our nation’s Capitol.”

Pence urged unity among conservatives to take back the majority in 2022. “In order to win, conservatives need to do more than criticize and complain, we must unite our movement behind the bold, optimistic agenda that offers a clear and compelling choice to the American people,” he said.

Go deeper… House Republicans praise Mike Pence for “courage” on Jan. 6