The South Bend Tribune


During a South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce forum Tuesday, freshman U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said he’ll be a voice for business at the national level, and a disruption to the political status quo in Washington, D.C.

In a trip across the area Tuesday, Braun made stops in South Bend, Granger and Elkhart to speak with business leaders and share the vision for his first six-year term.

Amid the longest partial government shutdown in history, which has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed and others working without paychecks, Braun said it’s urgent a solution be found to the gridlock over President Donald Trump’s insistence on funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Braun backed Trump’s wall demand as he campaigned last year against Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly. On Tuesday, however, he seemed to soften his position, stating that the southern border doesn’t need a wall across all 1,900 miles.

“I listened to the Border Patrol, and they said that they do not need barriers in many places, but they’ve got to have them in some places to do their job,” Braun said. “Wherever you’ve got to have a barrier because of the traffic and existing conditions that are there, it needs to be shored up, otherwise we’re promoting open borders.”

Trump and top Republicans unveiled a plan last week billed as a compromise that would budget $5.7 billion for a border wall, money to hire new border agents, temporary three-year protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protection Status recipients and $800 million for humanitarian assistance. Braun backed the deal and called for Democrats to “work with President Trump and finalize this deal so we can reopen the government and pay our federal employees.”

So far, the proposal hasn’t gained much traction with Democrats.

Braun blamed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on the lack of a deal and said he’s interested to see if any Democrats break with their party and vote for the president’s proposal, which he said could see a vote as early as Thursday.

“People ask when this is going to get solved,” Braun said. “In my opinion it’s a matter of weeks, not months. It’s regrettably gone on longer than what it should have.”

Beginning his tenure amid the shutdown, Braun hasn’t hesitated to criticize a system that maintains pay for Congress while federal employees go without paychecks.

His first bill, a revival of the No Budget, No Pay Act, addresses what Braun has said is a lack of consequences for Congress, preventing members from being paid during government shutdowns.

Though he said the bill “probably won’t make it across the finish line” Braun hopes it will spur conversation. He also plans to push a two-term limit for U.S. senators and fix a system that he said is contrary to the intent of the Constitution’s framers.

At the Chamber luncheon Tuesday, Braun emphasized his business background, pointing out that his election along with business-minded Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney makes him “optimistic that we can get some stuff done.”

“I’m a businessman and an outsider,” Braun said. “Someone that’s doing this for a different set of reasons.”