Q&A with Sen. Mike Braun

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FARMERSBURG, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — We sat down with Sen. Mike Braun Monday and got his thoughts on several hot topics across the country right now including reported Russian bounties on American soldiers, Vote-by-Mail, the Supreme Court’s Electoral College vote, the coronavirus and an update on his proposed Reforming Qualified Immunity Act.

WTWO/WAWV: What’s on your mind as you’re back on the road again?

BRAUN: So we’ve got a two week break and we’re we’re back in the state. We have 16 weeks of that throughout a year. Of course, this has not been a normal year.

The COVID-19 issue is still dominating the landscape. Of course, we’ve had other stuff, including police reform and a lot of other issues.

And the sad thing is, we were in the midst of probably one of the strongest economies I can ever remember. I’ve been in the business world before I became a senator, so I think we’re going to get back on track on all of that.

But I think we’re going to have to find a way to navigate through managing coronavirus in a way that enables us to go on with the life we kind of knew before. But with a few new guidelines so that probably along with all the unrest we’re seeing in the country, that has really been the dominant issue recently.

And for me, it’s sad coming from a place like Indiana where we respect law and order and you see some of the things you could have never imagined occurring, rioting and looting and some of these places that have been beset with issues for many decades and run by the same city governments. And, you know, there are issues there that are real.

And but, you know, I recently got involved in a discussion of police reform and all of that. And it’s funny how hot the issue is, because I was completely misrepresented and kind of saying that anyone should be able to express their First Amendment rights. And course then that got taken in a way that I was very disappointed with that tried to attach me too crazy organization, Black Lives Matters, dot org or dot com, which, you know, is out there is one of the groups. It is kind of stoking the rioting and all of that.

And it’s sad that we’ve gotten to a point where we can’t, in a more civil manner, arrive at solutions. But a lot of these problems have been around for a while. And many, um, I’ve been in cities that have had the same governance for a long time. And thank goodness that doesn’t typify a great place like Indiana.

But we need to get through that and get back to the issues I came here for was to fight the high cost of health care, to keep the economy good and strong, which was working well. And we’ll get back there.

WTWO/WAWV: How is your Reforming Qualified Immunity Act going to get us back to that place where we are respecting law enforcement…?

BRAUN: And that’s a really tricky dynamic because law enforcement’s probably got the toughest job out there every day when they go to work. And, you know, they’re risking their not in their lives. I mean, it can and look at if you’re trying to enforce law in places where it’s gotten crazy, like we’ve seen tearing statues down, breaking and entering and all of that. And it does.

What I was trying to do was to find a place that would reform it or tweak it a little bit to hold the bad apples accountable. Actually, it happened so quickly. Didn’t really have time to get with law enforcement. We talked to them after the fact.

And course, they made the point that this job is so darn hard already that we really don’t think anything necessarily needs to be done. If, in fact, that’s going to make it even a more difficult job.

So we’re I, what I learned there is going forward, if that issue comes back up, the Democrats, I think now think that they can win with it in the election. That’s why they didn’t go further when we had that bill that all of us, as Republicans agreed to and qualified immunity, probably as what they were wanting to end are modified drastically.

And my bill is different. Try to find a place that might make sense. And it’s such a hot topic that it probably caused more confusion and more ill will and what I ever intended. So I agreed that going forward, I want law enforcement involved.

If the issue comes up again, and that’s probably going to be controlled by the Democrats since they’ve now made it an election issue.

WTWO/WAWV: What are your thoughts on the reports that Russians have placed bounties on American soldiers?

BRAUN: I think that is something when you hear that, that could have occurred. Russia is not our friend. They are geopolitical foe. They seem to be behind a lot of the mischief that occurs around the world. And I think that we need to call them out for what they are. There are ones that are sure. I think President Trump’s tried to establish a discourse with them, and he’s also been probably as strong with sanctions as anybody else.

So. But on this particular issue, we need to get to the bottom of it. And if that did occur, regardless of when someone was notified about it, they need to be sent a significant signal that that’s beyond the pale and sanctions should be even cranked up more severely. There has to be a significant response if, in fact, it’s true.

WTWO/WAWV: Do you think Pres. Trump was briefed on this issue?

BRAUN: I don’t think anyone knows that for sure. I think that the reason it did not get put forward maybe months ago was that they were uncertain of that. I’m almost guaranteed now that we’ll get to the bottom of it and we need to focus on whether or not the president. That will inevitably come up as part of the discussion.

But to me, I don’t know that we’d ever get the clear information there because they’ve already stated that they did know about it, but it had not risen to the point of being verified to where they knew it was sound intelligence. That’ll be debated just like impeachment was in it. Sadly, there you get a lot of politics involved. But we do need to get to the bottom of it and find out if that happened or not. And then hold the Russians accountable.

WTWO/WAWV: Speaking of foreign interference, is that something we will have to worry about this election season?

BRAUN: Yes, I think that it’s something we definitely need to be vigilant about. You’ve got too many players across the world that try to intervene and with technology the way it is. Sadly, they seem to be able to penetrate. And we need to be on guard because one of the most sacred things about our system would be the integrity of our elections. And I think. I don’t think anybody is going to be taking that casually. I think a lot of times that’s been politicized as well. And I think that was vindicated somewhat through some of the time we spent on it already. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be on guard against it.

WTWO/WAWV: Another election concern is Vote By Mail. Do you think it is safe?

BRAUN: That’s very simple for me. Anybody that wants to vote should be able to vote. How you then take a system that we’ve already got that gives you so much time to vote early. So many places that you used to not be able to. And the security and integrity has got to be guaranteed. And I think with machines and the way we do it currently, and that’s ideally the way most people should vote, absentee ballots, voting by mail are there, you know, for the exception, I don’t think it should be the rule.

WTWO/WAWV: OK. And what about today’s Supreme Court decision that presidential electors must back their state’s popular vote?

BRAUN: I’m finally glad to see that. I think it was at nine nine zero ruling to where everybody if I had seen some on the liberal side of the spectrum not uphold the whole electoral system.

I was happy to see it.

I’ve been disappointed recently in what we’ve been getting out of the Supreme Court, especially since we thought we had some folks on there that might give us a little bit better rulings on some of the issues that are dessert dear to many of us. You know, there been some rulings on abortion recently and other issues that I was surprised, frankly, that we lost them not only five to four on a few of them, but a six to three on another one.

WTWO/WAWV: Could today’s decision have an impact on this year’s election?

BRAUN: You know, I think the whole issue of a rogue voter that is actually representing the whole electoral process, that kind of got discussed a little bit, this, last election. I think that that is a very clear relationship. You represent what the people within your state determine and you are there as a technicality to transfer that decision into an electoral vote. When I started hearing discussions that they would start to, you know, maybe vote their own conscience and so forth. I don’t think the founders ever intended for that to happen.

WTWO/WAWV: Do you think the electoral college still serves a purpose?

BRAUN: Definitely still serves a purpose. That was one of the most brilliant things in the Constitution. Imagine if the most densely populated places in the country had complete control over the rest of. I mean, we have 50 states. You have 50 different states. And I think for any of us that live in more rural areas, in less populated states, we need to make sure the electoral system stays in place.

WTWO/WAWV: Do you think a second round of stimulus checks is necessary to help the economy bounce back?

BRAUN: So that’s a difficult question, because for someone like me and there are a few of us in the Senate that you could truly say are fiscal conservatives that know that you have to pay for things, you have to make things work out in the long run. And we’ve just spent $2.9 trillion roughly. When I got there, hundreds of billions I thought were a big figure.

And lot of what we did had to be done simply because government forced the economy to be shut down. And we knew so little about the disease itself. And we saw the horror that unfurled in New York and New Jersey.

I was okay with it. But now, to me, this looks like attempts to weave a lot of other stuff into the legislation. I don’t think it’ll be that was attempted even in 3.5 when we were wrestling with a lot of extraneous stuff to get that out the door.

I think there will even be more of that in what I’ve heard from the House version. You know, they’re going to want to tackle a lot of other issues that are totally unrelated to the economy and the coronavirus. And the economy is going to bounce back because it was that good before.

And we will have flare ups that we have to contend with. But we know a lot more about it. We’ve got some therapeutics that are out there that are now working. And I think the key thing to watch is the fatality rate.

And we’re going to have a lot more cases because it’s both things are true. We have we’re going to more cases because the disease is actually infecting more people and we’re going to have more. They think there tend to maybe 20 times as many cases out there as to what we’ve already tested for. So herd immunity and or a vaccine needs to get up to about 65 percent of the American public before we get the coronavirus in the rearview mirror and pay attention to the rules of distancing masks, hygiene and all of that.

You and I have to get used to it and have the individual responsibility to do it. I don’t like these one size fits all blanket shutdowns because to me, that was going to make the economic patient a lot sicker than what it needed to be. And we’re seeing some of that already. I think you’re going to have strong bounce backs in places that took a broader view in terms of tackling the virus and not killing the economy and enough to do two things at once. I, I know it was that strong an economy. That’s why wages were going up for the individuals at the lowest end of the wage scale. And you’re not going to get that from government. You’ve got to have the economy working. And it was starting to and we’ll get it back again.

WTWO/WAWV: Do you think a second round of stimulus checks is likely?

BRAUN: You know, I think it’s gonna be a tough discussion because another round of stimulus checks, another round of general stimulus. Remember, we’re borrowing every penny of it that we’re going to spend. And we’ve got to be careful about that.

WTWO/WAWV: Back to the coronavirus itself. Do you think we will be prepared if another pandemic hits. I know last week researchers in China found a strain of swine flu they said had pandemic potential.

BRAUN: Well, we if we’re not prepared the next time, shame on us, it is going to be something that we got to be prepared for. And sometimes it takes something like this to kind of get fully prepared to kind of wake us up to a new reality.

And now I think we’ve learned a lot about it. And I just hope that whatever comes along down the road doesn’t have the dual characteristics of trans visibility and lethality. And, you know, to where. Now, there are so many asymptomatic cases and we’re able to protect those most vulnerable that have comorbidities. That’s why we’re seeing a lot fewer incidents in nursing homes. And I think they’re doing a good job there.

But, yeah, this is a heads up that we need to be prepared because I don’t really think we were, but we had never had anything like this before. Nor has the world.

WTWO/WAWV: What does that preparedness look like? Is it through legislation? education?

BRAUN: I think it has to be two-fold.

I think it needs to be where we put resources into finding out what the range of different viruses might look like and then how we’d prepare for it accordingly. We know what one now looks like when it is easy to transmit.

And we know the three rules we’ve been hearing about for four months. What I’m worried about is what happens if we get one that has harsher health effects and we never know and we’re at the mercy of the virus there. But I think that if there is one silver lining to all this, it’ll put us in a state of preparedness.

And as good as we are, once we have information on something, we’re blessed with more technology and more science than ever before to aim our capabilities at it.

WTWO/WAWV: Do you think the country has become complacent with coronavirus restrictions, social distancing, mask wearing?

BRAUN: I think maybe among younger people. It’s hard to be kind of pent up for four months without having some of that.

But I think there’s a big difference between whether you’re indoors and outdoors or learning a lot more about what the most likely scenarios are.

And that’s going to mean that there are some things that we all love to do before her that are going to be kind of difficult to do until the vaccine and herd immunity have basically eliminated the chance of getting it.

In the meantime, we can’t get complacent and we do need to pay attention to those. That’s individual responsibility. And that makes sense because we’ve all got loved ones that are probably in that category of vulnerability. And I’m really glad to see that. It looks like, especially in nursing homes, elderly care centers, the professionals there have figured that out. And I think that’s one of the reasons we haven’t seen as many flare ups is what we did early on.

Remember, every day we’re learning, we’re learning how to better defend ourselves against it. And we got more opportunity for real therapeutics, maybe cures, but especially a vaccination to come on stream that day.

WTWO/WAWV: What should school look like in the fall? All in person? All online? A combination of both?

BRAUN: I think Mitch Daniels has got it right when what I do at the college level, especially, I think there you’re at an age where you want to flex your wings, but also are adult enough to know that you’re gonna have to adhere to some guidelines.

And I think he’s built a great case of why we need to have in classroom education and maybe do some of the adjustments, like most are talking about, of going up to Thanksgiving and not being there during that normal worst time of the flu season.

When it comes to elementary education and high school. I think that we need to get students back in the classroom there, too, and hopefully just pay attention to the rules. I think that if we start to hunker down to the point where we don’t do that and we don’t take a little bit of risk, that’s mitigated.

And then where people do the things, you know, that keeps it unlikely to have a flare up, I’d be disappointed because I don’t think we can just keep going in a hunker down shutdown mode because we’ve learned a lot about it.

But part of that will be when you do it, we’ll have to learn from whatever we might learn quickly once we do get back in school.

But I don’t think you do not do it for the sake of just avoiding the risk.

WTWO/WAWV: Do you agree with some of the governors who are starting to require mask?

BRAUN: I think that, first of all, should be a local or a state prerogative. The idea of having a national, rule or law for wearing a mask, now, that to me is government gone way beyond the point of where you need it.

When it comes to particular cases, local and state governments, where you’ve got issues like we saw in New York and New Jersey. I think that’s a prerogative there. And I think there I’d still be very careful about doing things that kind of impinge your basic liberties that we all love in this country. So you’ve got to be careful there.

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