Sen. Mike Braun’s Crusade Against COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

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Even though President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers is on hold pending court action, the fight is on in Congress to ensure that it never can come back.

Out of 50 Republicans in the Senate, however, one man is issuing a rallying cry against such mandates.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., is leading the charge against Biden’s vaccine mandate for employers of 100 or more. Braun is galvanizing colleagues to push back against the White House and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency within the Labor Department that the president designated to issue an emergency rule to implement the mandate.

Braun joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss what he and his congressional colleagues are doing to fight Biden’s plan. 

We also cover these stories:

  • At least five are dead and 40 injured, including at least 18 children, after an SUV driver rams through a crowd during a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. 
  • A jury in Georgia hears closing arguments in the trial of three white men charged with murdering a black man in their neighborhood.
  • Biden announces that he will renominate Jerome Powell as chairman of the Federal Reserve despite calls from the left to replace the Trump nominee.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.

Doug Blair: Our guest today is Sen. Mike Braun, who represents the great state of Indiana. Senator, welcome to the show.

Sen. Mike Braun: Hey, my pleasure to be on.

Blair: Excellent. We’re here to talk today about the federal vaccine mandate for COVID-19. The Biden administration has put a pause on a federal COVID vaccine mandate that would’ve required companies with 100-plus employees to get all employees vaccinated or force them to go through a weekly testing regime to make sure that they were COVID negative. What did you think of that mandate when it was first announced?

Braun: Well, coming from running a business not too long ago, in fact, I was doing that right before I got sworn in for Senate, I knew that was going to be looming as something when they said they were going to do it.

The thing to keep in mind is there’s been so little transmission at the entity level. Business school protocols were put into place way in the early stages of this and transmission has not been happening there. Most companies have been dead serious about keeping their employees safe, their customers safe, put in temperature check stations. If you get sick, stay at home. It’s been a non-issue.

And then due to how politicized this has become, at the tail end when everything was kind of ebbing, so to speak, you come out to where in my state, let’s set the federal employees and contractors aside, they were going to be impacted similarly, they started to soften some of those enforcement measures, which told me maybe they’d back down. But really they didn’t back down in the sense that they could have said, “Hey, this is a bad idea. Let’s forget it.”

So 10%-20% up to, in some cases, 40% of employees are not vaccinated at many of the places in my state. And again, it’s going to be the smaller businesses, Main Street, not the biggest companies, because they were in on this idea of mandating anyway.

So I am hoping that with the court action and the fact that we got 50 Republican senators—I did that within about a 10-day span. And the nine or 10 that didn’t get on in the first few days because they were hearing the same thing back in their districts, they wanted to see the text, every one of them came on board to where that time clock is now running.

It’s about a 20-day minimum period that has to sit there, go through some pre-procedural stuff, committees, and then every senator, every representative will be taken to a vote on it, so it’ll be a public record if you’re for something.

It polls at 14%. And that was an Axios poll that when you say, “Get the vaccination or lose your job,” two-thirds of Democrats at the grassroots level think that’s a crazy idea.

Blair: Interesting. Now, I’m sort of interested in your thoughts on some reporting that I’ve heard from The Hill. So, The Hill is reporting that the Biden White House, for the second time in about a month, has encouraged these large businesses to move forward with the coronavirus vaccine mandate even though it’s in legal limbo right now as to whether or not it’s going to actually take effect. What are your thoughts on the Biden White House’s statements that this is something that they should be doing, these big businesses should be doing?

Braun: You know, they’re really doubling down on it, and I think they just made another classic miscue. It’d be along the lines of the departure from Afghanistan, what they’re allowing on the border.

The border, when I ran, immigration border issues along with jobs in the economy ironically were the two biggest issues driving my campaign. It’s happening again for different reasons. So I don’t know why they would want to force through something that is so universally rejected as a bad idea.

Big companies from the beginning were OK with and I think liked the fact that the Biden administration came out and was going to make them look better, but that is mostly the biggest of companies. That’s not Main Street entities. Like my family business, three of my four kids run it now, and I was the CEO and CFO of it for 37 years. It was so little for about half the time, it didn’t make any difference if you had a title or not. We’re worried about the same thing.

We think in our particular part of the state, there’s a defense weapons facility just an hour or so up the road. They’re in that cultural category where everyone there, whether it’s a government-related or business entity, even school employees in many cases, many just are not comfortable with the vaccine. And you got a large part of your workforce at, who knows what’s going to happen if it’s pushed?

I hope the courts dispense it along with the Congressional Review Act, which is the only formal thing we can do in the Congress that would maybe get them to still push a little bit for the big companies but back off on the rest when you get farther down the road.

Blair: I do want to really highlight that Congressional Review Act that you’ve mentioned a couple of times now. You and all 49 other Senate Republicans are planning on using this act to try and strike down the mandate for good. Would you be able to explain a little bit more to our listeners what exactly that entails and then what you’re hoping to get out of that if it succeeds?

Braun: Yes, because some people think this is an executive order. It’s not. They were very crafty by doing this as a ruling. And as a ruling, they did it within [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration]. And OSHA has disbanded as well because the 5th Appellate Court has put a stay on it and the 6th is going to actually hear it.

But the Congressional Review Act is the only tool that Congress has, when you’ve got a rule that comes from the executive branch, where you can actually abrogate it. You can call it up for a vote, and we just need one Democrat to pass it through the Senate because it’s just a 50-vote threshold. They’d need the same in the House. And then [President Joe] Biden, he can veto it. We’d have to get a veto override vote, which probably won’t happen.

Right now, it’s a political thing that’s going to put all the swing-state Democratic senators on record that they’re voting for something that two-thirds, if not more, of their voters are against, including Democrats.

Blair: Now, you’ve mentioned that you need a Democrat to join with you to get this bill passed or to get this act passed. Do you feel as if you will get any support from across the aisle?

Braun: I’ve talked to already five or six of them … said, “Hey, do you realize this polls at 14%? That means two-thirds of your Democratic supporters don’t like the ultimatum, ‘Get the vaccine or lose your job.'” This has nothing to do with your point of view of the vaccine itself. It’s the ultimatum that’s tied to it.

And every one of them will still be on record. And even if we get one or two, it’s unlikely to be signed by Biden, who initiated it. That would be, really, an unusual dynamic if all of a sudden he would not veto it. It would take one of them to just get it out of the Senate, same thing in the House, to his desk for signing. Almost a certainty, he would not do that. He’ll veto it.

So this is mostly about getting them on record, putting them in a place where that, along with the just swelling and opposition to it, all culminates to where they may back off on its full implementation. Gives us more time for the court to work things out. Who knows where they end up with it?

They can continue to dig the hole deeper, along with the border and some of these other things that, given us as Republicans, if we can’t win with the deplorables that they’ve dished up, I call it a one-man wrecking crew with Joe Biden, with the things he’s done since he’s been in there.

At some point, they’re going to have to say, “Hey, do we want to continue to go for broke on policies and ideas”—that probably they think we as Republicans will never undo, or they get it done—”than worry about how the voters view it in 2022?” I don’t know what their calculation is.

Blair: Now, one of the things that you’ve mentioned is that the Congressional Review Act would be the only act that Congress would be able to do. But we have also talked about how maybe the Supreme Court would be able to deal with this mandate as well. If the Supreme Court is to hear this case, if it does make it all the way up to the Supreme Court, how do you believe they will rule?

Braun: Well, first of all, we’re going to have to go through the 6th Appellate because it’s been chosen to hear the case. Remember, the 5th Appellate just put the stay on it. So one thing working in our favor in general is this thing can’t move forward until the the 6th Appellate Court hears it and rules on it.

Let’s say that they rule in the same way the 5th did. The Supreme Court could say, “Hey, two of our appellate courts have already said—” especially if it’s with unanimity in the hearing portion of it, they may choose to do nothing. They may let it sit there and say, “Hey, you can’t get anything any better. We don’t need to bring it to the Supreme Court.”

If they think it’s important enough for the principal to make a statement long term on these kind of mandates, they’ll bring it up and hear it themselves. And then they may return it to the ruling that was given in the 6th. They may tweak it.

But I think of the hearing component, which who knows how long that’ll take, some estimate maybe two to three months, that’s going to delay its implementation, No. 1.

And then whether it is going to draw a reaction from the Supreme Court would depend on, I’m guessing, how it goes through with the three appellate judges that will rule on it. I got a funny feeling if they rule three-zip like the 5th did to stay it, they may just let it lay with that ruling at the appellate level.

Blair: Interesting. Now, Senator, this is not the first time that the Biden administration has released a legally dubious order that basically circumvents Congress. This evokes the eviction moratorium that ran into a similar issue where the courts had to stay it. Do you see that happening here as well?

Braun: … I think it has the same kind of dynamic as that, but this is a of couple levels or two above in terms of just the interest at a grassroots level. The eviction moratorium and anything around it was impacting a much narrower group of citizens. This is impacting, listen to this, between 100 employees and 500, that’s 93,000 entities.

And remember, we were paying through the CARES Act through the federal government to keep employees at their job, at their post up to $500. So it’s got an inherent contradiction here.

This is a much bigger deal from anything that the Biden administration has done. Might carry similar dynamics, but I think this is something different.

And I think they’ve just really gotten so far ahead of their skis on this one, thinking that maybe, hey, they can just ram it through. They had the large woke corporations helping them, but that was very thin support at the level of the very biggest companies. This is getting into Main Street America where businesses like mine are positioned, and it’s a much different point of view.

Blair: Well, as a business owner, I do think you have some insight that I would love to hear. On your website, on your Senate website, you have a post that reads, “Job Creators Oppose Biden’s Vaccine Mandates for Business.” Have you heard any stories from your constituents or from people in smaller businesses who have been affected by this mandate?

Braun: So, I’ve had more traffic from phone calls, emails, anyway you can get ahold of your senator on this one issue more than anything else since I’ve been a senator in a little under three years. There’s just no comparison.

And I’ll give you a vivid little story. It was one of the recent breaks when we were back at home, neighboring business, that’ll actually be protected from it. But one of the employees that I’ve known for a long time sees me leaving my office, pulls up, was talking about this. And as an example, even though they’re going to be exempted because they’re way under 100 employees, “Where is our country going? How can you be mandating something where this should be a personal decision between yourself and maybe your doctor to where the federal government can come in and do it?”

So other than the very largest companies and the very progressive side of politics here in D.C., the rest of the country has just, in a ground swell, businesses even that aren’t going to be impacted by it that are under 100 are weighing in, because what is the next shoe to drop? Where does the Biden administration try to weigh in again in a heavy-handed way?

Blair: One of the other things that’s been affecting a lot of Americans these days is inflation and rampant supply chain issues. One of the causes of which is due to worker shortages. I think you can go across the country and you can see “help wanted” signs in numerous windows. What are your thoughts on how this vaccine mandate affects businesses in terms of worker shortages?

Braun: That was the biggest issue pre-COVID, would’ve been workforce. That’s probably another conversation we need to have, but higher education stigmatizes against a lot of the jobs that we need out there, which basically need a better high school education.

So, workforce is something that all through this journey has been impacted in a way. Think about it. When the government comes in and makes all these bureaucratic decisions, you’re essential and you’re not, and then puts all that money into the system that allows individuals to not have to calculate what is the dynamic, the work ethic, is the government going to be my new business partner in how I make a living?

Many that did not come back to work, of course, might have had bonafide issues about navigating safely through the pandemic. I told you earlier in the conversation, my observation, which has been almost 100% the case, that has not been the issue. There’s been hardly any transmission at places where you work, because we took it seriously.

Now, do people that have been staying at home watching Netflix, saving money through stipends from the government, how do they calculate that return to the workplace? We’ve seen just recently people have left the workforce in droves. When will they come back?

There’s been something that’ll be long term from this that the government started by changing that dynamic of when you normally run into scrapes just due to economic reasons and you’ve got a valid tool there, unemployment, never have we had this kind of situation where it’s been driven so bureaucratically, so politically, and it’s spent so much money to where who knows what the new work ethic and dynamic between employment and labor is going to be once we get this in some type of the rear-view mirror?

Blair: Another angle that is probably affecting America’s recovery from the pandemic is a strange unacceptance of natural immunity from a previous COVID infection as a substitute for vaccination.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that does not accept a previous infection from COVID-19 and recovery, of course, as the same or better than a COVID vaccination. How does this impact our recovery? Is there a way that we can maybe match the rest of the world and switch over to that system?

Braun: Well, the fact that that isn’t counted plays on a lot of individual’s minds, that, “Why do I need to be forced to have a vaccine when I’ve had it either asymptomatically or with minor symptoms and you’re not giving it credit?”

It also begs a question why they’ve been so muted on the Merck and Pfizer therapeutic pill. It’s because they’ve so bought into, remember, “I’d never take the Trump vaccine,” both [Vice President Kamala Harris] and Joe Biden on record saying it.

Of course, they get in there, then embrace it, and then talk about what a great job they’re going to do with getting it out there. Never being honest, I think, with the American public that it was going to be the sole solution.

We’d be chasing our tail forever with vaccinations only. They’re good to have as one leg of a tripod along with therapeutics and prophylactics. They never even wanted to talk about it. But actually that second leg, which is now getting ready to hit the marketplace, I think it’s going to be probably the most impactful tool of all because so many of our cases have been disproportionately ravaging those that are very old and very predisposed.

And I don’t think we did a good enough job in protecting them, No. 1, tried to shut down the whole economy, No. 2, and never really was giving a full view of how we live with this thing in the long run.

Blair: Do you view the politics of how COVID was handled as being a key factor in where we are now?

Braun: Definitely, because when you buy into stuff that you’re doing it with a political motive only—especially when one of your most common phrases is, “Let’s look at the data. Let’s go with the science.”

Breakthrough cases that were happening very soon after vaccines were given, now the need for maybe two shots and a boost, all fine, but that’s probably not something you can push sustainably in the long run. And to me, that probably took some attention away from some time and devotion to the effort of getting, to me, what I think has solved the AIDS crisis. That’s not been a vaccine. That’s been a combination of therapeutics.

Every virus has got a different personality, a different way to approach it. But when you take a political point of view and push it so hard, I think that hurt in terms of being honest with the American public, a lot of the shutdown policies, all of that. And we’ll distill that and debrief it somewhere down the road. It looks like that won’t be done in the present.

Blair: Now, Senator, as we wrap-up here, I think we can pretty safely say that you believe that the federal vaccine mandate is not a good solution to getting America on the path to recovery from the pandemic. In that case, what is a good government response to the pandemic? What does recovery look like to you?

Braun: I think at this stage of the game, most of the things that could have been done differently—we didn’t need to spend $4 trillion. Bureaucrats got a hold in government of the entire navigation. They didn’t check with Main Street. They didn’t peer into the fact that transmission wasn’t really occurring at the workplace.

And I think from here forward, government maybe should take the cue that when we navigate through something like this in the future, that you don’t politicize it, No. 1. You give more credibility to, I think, who had the most incentive to navigate through this safely, the productive side of the economy. And do not put in such contradictory policies like paying you to stay with your employer, spending tons of money, and then have countervailing, contradictory things that keep getting put out there.

So whether that’ll be fully acknowledged until there’s a change of ownership here in D.C., who knows? But I hope there is an honest, debriefing distillation of it and government learns from it.

We’re pretty polarized out here. It doesn’t surprise me that you get statements like, “I’d never take that Trump vaccine,” and then you promote it as being the government that’s actually logistically taking it to the people. Lot of built-in, inherent contradictions. I’d hope that next time, and hopefully there’s not a soon next time from it, but that we’re honest in terms of the mistakes we made and maybe some of the right moves we made.

Blair: Excellent. Well, that was Sen. Mike Braun, who represents the great state of Indiana. Senator, I very much appreciate you joining us today.

Braun: Hey, my pleasure.

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