U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said Monday morning that Congress must be ready to “reposition on everything” as it responds to the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal lawmakers in coming weeks should focus most on helping health care providers treating the outbreak, Braun added.
Washington’s role is “to put the real tools out there financially, and it’s to tell the American public to restore confidence,” Braun, R-Ind., said in a telephone interview from his office on Capitol Hill.
The second-year senator from Jasper voted Sunday in favor of advancing a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package and said he would do so again today after the legislation failed to receive the 60 votes required for approval in the 100-member Senate.
“And then I’m prepared to look to see if we need to strategically and tactically reposition on everything we’ve learned from other countries, still keeping in mind that until we get the disease curve broken, I don’t think we’re going to allay the national fear and anxiety,” he said.
“The cost will be unbelievable if we keep cascading forward on shutting things down. That’s why I’m hoping the initial actions that we have taken will enable us to be a little lighter on that and be a little more discerning on selective measures,” Braun said.
The relief package is the third phase of congressional legislation for battling the potentially deadly respiratory virus; it spent more than $100 billion on earlier aid. But Democrats blocked the the latest phase Sunday, arguing that it gives preference to large corporations.
Among sticking points is that the legislation would allow the U.S. Treasury to keep secret for six months the identities of companies receiving financial assistance.
“I don’t like that,” Braun said about the provision. “I’m a believer in full transparency on everything. … I see no point in that.”
Braun, a fiscal conservative who owns auto parts distribution companies, stressed that Congress must be ready to do even more to try to stem the pandemic and its economic fallout.
He called federal intervention a “race between flattening the disease curve without flattening the economy. And here in 15 days I think we need to reassess, possibly put a little more effort on protecting health care workers” and the “most susceptible” populations, including older people and those in nursing care.
“We need to make sure hospitals are treated in that high category of building an almost iron dome of protection around them,” he said.
Recent restrictions on travel and public gatherings have “made sense. All of us can make it through a couple of weeks,” Braun said about attempts to slow the transmission of the new virus.
“Several businesses, though, that were at the leading edge of this – bars, hotels, restaurants – they have been taking the brunt of it. … Those are the businesses I’m worried apart,” he said.
His recommendation going forward: “Just take a step back, make adjustments like you do in any crisis and make sure we’re doing the right thing for that right point in time.”