U.S. Sen. Mike Braun painted a picture of dysfunction and complacency in Washington, D.C., during a visit to Tipton on Tuesday to discuss his policy views and experiences since taking his seat in the Capitol in January.
The first-term Republican senator spoke to a small crowd inside the Tipton County Foundation building as part of a full day of visits and tours around the state, including a stop at the Fiat Chrysler Automobile transmission plant in Kokomo.
Vicky Warner, director of the Tipton County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event, said this is the first time a sitting U.S. senator has visited the town in at least eight years.
During his question-and-answer session, Braun kept up his status as a political outsider, taking aim at career politicians from both parties whom he said have let the federal government spiral out of control.
“I knew the place was dysfunctional and gummed up and just not moving,” he said. “It’s a little worse than I thought.”
Braun said “very few” senators ever show up for their assigned committee meetings, and hardly anything ever gets accomplished during those meetings.
“That’s been a surprise, and I don’t know if I’d call it a pleasant one,” he said. “… It’s been a surprise how nestled in the people that are there seem to be, with just the idea of being senator. That, to me, is part and parcel with what gives them a 15-percent approval rating.”
Braun said that’s why he’s proposed cutting the hefty pension plans that come with being senator and putting term limits on elected officials.
He said that would “really clean the system out and get people there who are more focused on what needs to be done than worrying about their next election campaign check or building a career.”
Braun has also proposed a “no budget, no pay” policy in which those serving in Congress would not get paid unless they passed and appropriated a budget, which hasn’t happened in 20 years, he said.
On policy issues such as health care, Braun criticized his own party’s recent attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, without any plan to replace it with something else.
He said Republicans should have had a plan in place that would ensure Americans get the medical coverage they need without going bankrupt.
“[Obamacare] can’t just be a repeal,” he said. “That ship has sailed. All Hoosiers, all Americans, myself included, should never go broke in this country because you get sick or have a bad accident.”
Braun warned attempts by some Democrats to implement universal health care could succeed — and put the country in more debt, he said — unless the country’s health care system is fixed both from within and with ideas from Republicans.
“Where Medicaid for all may sound like crazy talk, it will be what happens because people will be sick and tired of not finding solutions for what they’ve been dealing with that led us to this point,” he said.
“I’m out there challenging the [health care] industry and telling them to get with it,” Braun said.” If you don’t start looking at things to fix yourselves, you’re going to have one business partner. It will be the federal government.”
On other issues such as the national opioid crisis, Braun said the federal government should let communities, towns and states spearhead efforts to curb the use of opioids.
“In this case, the federal government ought to lead on it as far as declaring it a problem, but not become the problem solver, because it’s broke as an institution,” he said.
Braun also said he supported President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, which he said has a “master plan of dominating the world economy.”
“[China] had to be confronted now,” he said. “Whenever you wait to fix things, it’s always more painful than if you just nip it in the bud.”
Alan Baird, a 75-year-old farmer and lifelong Tipton resident who attended the event, said he agreed with most of the policy positions espoused by Braun on Tuesday.
“He listened to us, and that’s important,” he said. “… I’m more impressed with him now than on the campaign trail.”
Braun has spent four months out in Washington since beating Democrat Joe Donnelly with 52 percent of the vote in the November election. In the primary, he defeated U.S. Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer.