WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Mike Braun has been amazed at what the U.S. Congress does not accomplish.
Reflecting on his first full year as a senator, he’s learned that legislation moves at a much slower pace than at the state level. And, in several key places, legislation doesn’t move at all.
“When I ran, it was to come here and weigh in on things I thought I knew quite a bit about: infrastructure, health care, budgeting. And I’m on all those committees that weigh in on those issues,” he said. “I’ve been disappointed in the sense that that seems to be secondary to a lot of other dynamics here.”
Most of the Senate’s accomplishments have involved getting circuit district judges and sub-level cabinet appointments appointed.
“That occupies most of the time, and needed to be done,” Braun said. “But I’m disappointed on legislative matters. We need senators weighing in on how to fix a broken health care industry, for instance. Nothing involving that has made it across the finish line.”
Part of the problem at the moment, he said, is the focus on President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
“Many people are so frustrated that this is a political place. The whole impeachment inquiry bolsters that argument,” Braun said. “Hopefully, once we get impeachment behind us, we’ll get back to the business of the people.”
Although Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives, Braun doesn’t think the Senate will remove him from office.
“I think he’s going to make it through,” Braun said. “I’m not saying what President Trump did was appropriate. I just say it’s not impeachable.”
All the evidence gathered by the House is supposed to be presented to the Senate.
“We are the jurors when we listen to what the House does to prosecute the case, and what the President’s attorneys do to defend it,” Braun said. “We’ve had three versions of the House — behind closed doors, public hearing and the four constitutional experts — and we’ve learned nothing more than what we really knew before. It hasn’t really changed much, because it was so political in its foundation. It was tainted from the get-go, and that’s why it’s purely partisan.”
Braun believes he has made some strides in other matters non-impeachment related.
“When the chairman of the main committee dealing with health care says, ‘Talk to Sen. Braun if you want to know the details of what we’re doing,’ that’s an honor,” Braun said. “So there has been some work done.”
He has weighed in on issues as a member of the Senate’s agriculture committee and the committee on health, education, labor and pensions, as well as the committee on environment and public works, which is the one that deals with infrastructure.
Braun is also a member of the budget committee.
“And sadly, we’ve made no progress there because we don’t even do budgets anymore,” he said. “That’s why we’ve got trillion-dollar deficits. A lot of work needs to be done. Nobody seems to have the political will to really discuss it, though.”
Despite its inactivity, he plans to stay on the committee. “I hope to keep talking about it, and then eventually we change it,” he said.
The chairman of the budget committee is not running again and will retire at the end of 2020, so a new chairman will come on board.
“It’s something that someday, I would hope that budgeting actually becomes something that we do again, rather than no budgeting,” Braun said. “That is what has built this trillion-dollar deficit. It’s kind of like avoidance.
“Imagine if our town ran that way, the school board ran that way, our state government or a business ran that way. You’d be called on the carpet immediately. Here, there’s not much accountability. That’s why we get by with it.”
Braun also plans to keep working on health care ideas. “I got eight or nine bills out there,” he said, “and I’ve got a lot of bullets in the current health care bill that’s sitting on the shelf. So that is where I will spend most of my time.”
Braun was the first Republican to join the climate caucus in the Senate, and was able to get six other Republicans to join, he said.
“That is a big issue that conservatives hate to be involved with,” he said. “We need to be involved, so that we don’t get rolled like we did when we were avoiding the health care issue, and then weren’t in the discussion.”
He is hopeful that he will be able to accomplish more in 2020.
“I think 2020 will be different,” he said. “It is an election year, so we won’t get away from the politics completely.”
He has no regrets about becoming involved in federal government matters.
“By in large, it was a lot of work to campaign and become a U.S. Senator. And it was worth the price of admission, because it gives me a big opportunity, even though we don’t get a lot of stuff done,” he said. “I try to get the point of view of what I ran on out there in front of the public. This is a big microphone here, and I intend to use it.”