Pence will go abroad on January 6 after officially declaring Biden the presidential winner


US Vice President Mike Pence waves to supporters at the end of a rally in Kinston, North Carolina on October 25, 2020.

jonathan drake | Reuters

Vice President Mike Pence is due to travel abroad for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic just hours after presiding over the session of Congress in which President-elect Joe Biden will be officially declared the winner of the competition. November against President Donald Trump.

The Indiana Republican will leave the United States on January 6 for a trip that will include stops in Bahrain, Israel and Poland, according to a government document obtained by NBC News. Pence will remain overseas until January 11.

The travel schedule, which an administration official said is subject to change, has a double benefit for Pence.

He is expected to use his final trip as vice president to tout the administration’s foreign policy achievements, including the normalization of relations between Israel and a number of Gulf states, including Bahrain.

It will also allow Pence, who is said to have his own presidential ambitions, to leave Washington after carrying out the delicate task of announcing his and Trump’s defeat to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

The trip begins the same day that Congress will convene for a joint session to officially count the electoral votes for president and vice president. Under federal law, the president of the Senate — a role held by the vice president — is responsible for presenting electoral votes and announcing the winner.

The job is politically uncomfortable for Pence, given that Trump overturned precedent by refusing to concede defeat. Biden won 306 electoral votes, 36 more than the 270 needed for victory. Trump won 232 electoral votes. The Electoral College officially voted on Monday.

Pence has stood by Trump for the four years of his administration, remaining a staunch ally in a White House plagued by unusually high turnover and frequent infighting. But the vice president remained largely in the background as Trump tried to reverse the Nov. 3 election results. Even so, Pence supported the president’s baseless allegations of voter fraud and did not publicly acknowledge Biden’s victory or congratulate the former vice president.

Other high-ranking Republicans have slowly begun to recognize the election results, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. On Tuesday, McConnell urged fellow Republicans not to try to block Biden’s declaration of victory.

The vice president’s office declined to comment on NBC News. Politico, which previously reported on the trip, cited Pence allies who said there was no suggestion Pence would not fulfill his statutory duties.

Pence’s role as chair of the Jan. 6 session of Congress is a formality, and he has no say in selecting the winner of the election. On at least one previous occasion when the vice president declined to preside, in 1969, the job was done by the acting Senate president, according to the Congressional Research Service. This year, the acting president is Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Political considerations aside, the timing of Pence’s trip may also be tied to the recent approval of the first vaccine designed to prevent the coronavirus. The Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine made by Pfizer for emergency use earlier this month.

Pence, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, has not traveled abroad since before the Covid-19 pandemic spread to the United States. On Friday, he will publicly receive one of the first doses of the vaccine, the White House announced.

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