Former Vice President Mike Pence said the Biden administration’s embrace of “big-government socialism” is reflected in nearly every policy issue coming out of Washington, especially the multitrillion-dollar spending proposal facing a possible vote in Congress this week.

At a Wednesday night event celebrating the opening of Advancing American Freedom, an organization Pence founded, the former vice president held court with the hosts of the “Ruthless Podcast” on the rooftop of his organization’s new headquarters overlooking the U.S. Capitol. Pence discussed a range of topics for 45 minutes before a live audience.

“Traveling around the country, I thought it’d be bad; I didn’t think it would be this bad,” Pence said. “Left-wing socialist ideology is in the saddle on virtually every issue—all the way up to this week’s massive effort, this so-called infrastructure bill and the $5.5 trillion massive expansion of the federal government.”

Pence attributed the political shift to self-avowed socialists, led by Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“Bernie Sanders lost the nomination, but he won the party,” Pence said. “I served in the House with Bernie Sanders and he’s a socialist. That’s not a pejorative, it’s how he would describe himself on most days. Now he’s in the Senate and his ideas are in the saddle.”

This week, Democrat lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to squabble over two massive spending bills as they attempt to fund the government before the start of the Oct. 1 fiscal year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been unable to overcome a divide within her own caucus about the huge cost of the legislation and its scope over nearly every aspect of American life.

“This freight train of big-government socialism, the price tag of which is maybe $5.5 trillion—probably many times that at the end of the day—is just one more example of that kind of politics that really is grinding everything to a halt and represents a failure of leadership by the administration, by the president, and by the soon-to-be former speaker of the House,” Pence said.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the hosts of the “Ruthless Podcast” on the rooftop of Advancing American Freedom, his new organization in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Hannah MacInnis)

Citing the Trump administration’s leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, Pence noted that lawmakers from both parties worked collaboratively to address the challenges facing America. He said Biden set the tone early in his administration when Democrats decided to abandon any pretense of bipartisanship.

“I wasn’t surprised, but I was deeply disappointed that after a year where everything we did in response to the COVID pandemic with the Congress, we did in a bipartisan way—every bill we passed to deal with COVID passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis—and then the first bill they moved on COVID passed on a partisan basis,” Pence said. “I think that set the tone for the environment we have in the Congress today.”

Pence, who previously served in the U.S. House and later as Indiana governor, said the political environment today reminds him of 2009 when a newly elected Democrat president and Democrat-led Congress overreached and faced a strong rebuke in the 2010 midterm elections.

“It’s fallen to our party this year on the floor and next year in the campaigns to offer the American people an alternative that rejects big-government socialism and defends free-market capitalism,” Pence said. “We also have to articulate a positive, conservative agenda that will draw the American people to us.”

Pence is a columnist for The Daily Signal, the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation, where he serves as a distinguished visiting fellow.

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