Sen. Mike Braun had plenty to say about his career, his thoughts on America's health care issues, and his first 10 months in Washington during a visit to Michigan City on Wednesday.
But many in attendance at the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce Federal Focus Breakfast had only a single question for Indiana's junior senator: Should President Donald Trump face impeachment for his conduct with the Ukrainian president?
The topic dominated much of the Q&A session following the Republican lawmaker's prepared remarks at the Blue Chip Casino Hotel and Spa. Attendees had the chance to write a question for the senator to answer, and most focused on the House of Representatives' recently launched impeachment probe.
The breakfast took place hours after the White House announced it would not cooperate with the Democrat-led House's investigation into the president's dealings with Ukraine.
The inquiry stems from allegations Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's and his family's dealings in the Eastern European nation during a July 25 phone call. The investigation is looking to see if the president used $391 million in security aid as leverage to persuade Ukrainian leadership to look into Biden, one of Trump's chief political rivals.
Braun – who assumed office in January after defeating Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly in last year's midterm election – doesn't believe the House probe will ultimately oust Trump.
The Jasper businessman labeled the investigation a "purely partisan affair" that arose from the ashes of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Trump colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. The probe ended in March after nearly two years with no charges leveled against the president.
Even if the House votes in favor of articles of impeachment, Braun doesn't see the Senate voting to remove Trump at trial, at least not without more substantial evidence of wrongdoing.
"Unless there is more meat to it, it's just going to be a political pursuit," he said.
And he regrets that the impeachment turmoil has brought the rest of Washington's legislative agenda to a standstill. Rather than act on health care or the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal – things which could benefit Americans – Congress would rather bicker about the president's conduct, Braun said.
Though he would have never made such a call to Zelensky – "I'm a milder-mannered Hoosier," he said – the senator said Trump has regularly shown such brazen behavior since taking office. And while he may not agree with the president's "bull in a China shop" approach to governing, Braun said he prefers Trump to the "business-as-usual" politicians who have contributed to America's trillion-dollar national debt.
"It, to me, is part of what Donald Trump has done since he's been president," he said. "[He] pushes the envelope, says stuff that makes us squirm ... but I'd rather have that than morph back into what was certainly going to take our country down the road to ruin."
Braun – who before running for Senate served four years as a state representative – is using his years of experience in the business world to bring a different approach to how things operate in Washington, he said.
A graduate of Wabash College, he earned his master's degree at Harvard Business School, then returned home to join his father's business, which sold truck bodies to farmers. Six months after arriving, sales began to flounder, prompting Braun to transform the company into a truck parts distributor, which today operates 75 locations across nearly 40 states.
Braun has applied the same entrepreneurial energy that kept his business afloat many years ago to his new career on Capitol Hill – where things don't happen nearly as quickly as in the private sector, he said.
"Most of my cohorts – who are smart people – have never done a budget or a payroll in their lives," he said. "They're running a business that's eight times the size of the largest business with moving parts in the entire world, Walmart, when it comes to people, locations and things that need to be managed."
Despite these challenges, Braun is committed to finding solutions to America's problems through empowering citizens at the local level, and not merely relying on the Washington leviathan, he said.
One such issue is health care. Opposing a federally controlled "Medicare for All" policy, the senator wants to eliminate restrictive health insurance networks and open the market to interstate competition, allowing customers to more easily find low-cost plans that work for them and their families.
"I don't think we can legislate in a lumbering body like the U.S. Senate and the House corrections into the system quickly enough before the whole thing breaks down and cascades into a one-payer system ... we will beyond the point of no return," Braun said.