By MARK SCHOEFF JR.
and BRIAN A. HOWEY


WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Braun, R-Jasper, hopes a resolution to kill the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate that he helped push through the Senate Wednesday night will send a bipartisan message against what he calls government overreach.

Scoring political points is about all it can do. Although Braun said a similar measure has momentum in the House, it’s not clear that it will get a vote there. Even if it gains House approval, it will die on President Joe Biden’s desk.

“What we’re going to accomplish with this, even though it will get vetoed, is [make it] a bipartisan issue,” Braun told Indiana reporters Wednesday morning before the Senate approved the resolution, 52-48, later in the day with two Democrats joining all Republicans in favor. “It’s another indication of why it’s a bad idea because it’s an executive ruling.”

Braun pointed to courts that have blocked the mandate – which requires Covid-19 vaccinations or weekly tests for companies with 100 or more employees – as well as public opinion polls showing opposition.

“Now Congress is about to say the same thing,” Braun said. “It was a bad idea from the get-go, and almost any approach has been verifying that and reinforcing it.”

He touted the fact that the resolution drew the support of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana. It was offered under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to reject federal regulations within a certain time after their promulgation. A CRA cannot be filibustered.

Braun estimated that the House version of the resolution has about 212 votes out of 218 needed for approval. Democrats hold a three-seat House majority. Braun said anywhere from 20 to 30 swing-district Democrats might end up supporting the resolution.

The Senate victory that Braun spearheaded may change the political calculations for them. “That ups the ante for House Democrats,” Braun said.

In his travels around Indiana, Braun said sentiment against the vaccine mandate is palpable. “It’s been the biggest issue since I’ve been in the Senate,” Braun said.

Braun supports vaccinations. “You should get the vaccination unless you’ve got a good reason not to,” he said. But he argues the decision should be made by companies and individuals, not the federal government.

“Every Americans’ personal freedom is at stake today,” Braun said in a Senate floor speech on Wednesday. “The federal government has no authority to make anyone choose between getting a jab or losing their job.’

He also pursued that theme during his media availability. “Is it worth the marginal loss of one additional job for the marginal addition of one more vaccination?” Braun told reporters. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration issued the vaccine and testing emergency temporary standard on Nov. 5. The agency has extended the public comment deadline to Jan. 19.

The core group of Republicans pushing to kill the regulation had wanted to tie the move to blocking a measure to fund the government, which would have caused a shutdown. That move was stopped by Senate leadership, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Braun said he favored using a stand-alone CRA because of the “purity” it would convey about opposition to the vaccine mandate. “The reason I led on the CRA [is because] it was the only way for Congress to weigh in,” Braun said. 

Most Democrats opposed the resolution. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized the “anti-science, anti-vaccine proposal” in a floor speech.

“We cannot go back to the days when people were driven by wild theories. Some of the anti-vaxxers here in this chamber remind me of what happened 400 years ago when people were clinging to the fact that the Sun revolved around the Earth. They just didn't believe science,” Schumer said. “It's just like that. The science is here. And what does the science show? The more people get vaccinated, the greater chance we have to eliminate and certainly greatly reduce the virulence and widespreadness of this disease.”

Braun pressed on post-Roe

For a half century, Roe v. Wade has redefined our parties and created the political skirmish lines. There was a time when the Republican leader of the Indiana House was pro-choice, and the Democratic speaker was pro-life. No more. Indiana’s GOP has become monolithically pro-life, with a policy position tantamount to whether one would move up the political ladder. After last week’s U.S. Supreme Court case involving Mississippi, many are expecting an outright Roe repeal. So, what’s next for Indiana politics?

Sen. Braun was pressed by Meet The Press  host Chuck Todd about the future of abortion in Indiana. He had few specifics. “When it comes to things like abortion, I think it’s clear it’s time to turn it back to the states, let the diversity of this country show forth,” Braun said on Sunday. “It eliminates a lot of the contention to where we become the Hatfields and McCoys on many of these issues. The beauty of our system is that it’s federal. It’s got all of these different ideas. And when you try to nationalize, federalize the way the other side of the aisle is doing on more than just this, I think you’re constantly in that area of contention.” 

Todd pressed Braun, saying, “Every elected official is going to have to state very specifically now” on future restrictions, saying that they had been “hiding behind Roe.” Braun: “In my case when you believe in the sanctity of life, you want abortions eliminated from the landscape if you can.” He said that the issue won’t likely be “settled in a homogenous way.” How would you enforce a ban on abortion? “You leave that to the states,” Braun responded. “You try to find that right mix. I’m not saying you got that right in Indiana.” Todd: What’s your idea? Braun: “It needs to be different from where it is. I don’t have the silver bullet.” Todd: Do you criminalize abortion? Braun: “We just need to take off from where it is and return it to the states.”

General Assembly

SD23: Beaver third candidate to enter


A third candidate has announced their candidacy for SD23 Local businessman Christian Beaver is also running on the Republican ticket (WLFI-TV). Beaver is former a leasing manager for Granite Student living and in 2020 joined his father’s family-owned residential and commercial development business. “The work of a legislator is year-round,” said Beaver. “You’ve got to be accessible they have to go to be able to get to you have to return calls, return emails, you’ve got to text back. It’s not all just about you know legislation there are different things that a candidate can do by connecting their constituents with state resources.. resources within their own community.” Longtime aide to Mitch Daniels Spencer Deery, and Fountain County Clerk Paula Copenhaver are both also running.

SD46: Field getting crowded

Andrea Hunley, an IPS principal, announced she was entering the crowded race (IndyStar). Hunley joins Karla Lopez-Owens, Ashley Eason and Kristen Jones – all Democrats – in the campaign for the newly created Democratic-leaning Indianapolis Senate district. The Indiana AFL-CIO endorsed Jones this past week. “We are incredibly excited to have this endorsement from the women and men of organized labor,” Jones said in a statement.

SD26: Alexander announces

Republican Scott Alexander, the president of the Delaware County Council, announced he is running for the soon-to-be vacant SD26. Melanie Wright, a former Democratic lawmaker, also plans to run in the district.

HD32: Wilburn, Jaworowski announce

Dr. Victoria Garcia Wilburn announced her candidacy for HD32 on Saturday in Carmel. She joins Suzie Jaworowski in this race. “We’ve welcomed 73,000 new residents across Hamilton and northern Marion County in the last decade. This unique and new district, House District 32, is a new opportunity in our state’s history to establish a foundation of what is important and central to our communities,” said Wilburn. “In the Statehouse, I will focus on three pillars, safety, public health, and education. We will continue to pursue safety by environmental design and common sense gun laws, we will push forward agendas that put the environmental effects on health front and center and we will continue to invest in a strong and robust public education system while not forgetting the most vulnerable of our special education community.” Wilburn is assistant professor of Occupational Therapy in the School of Health and Human Sciences at IUPUI. Fishers businesswoman and former Indiana State Direcetor for the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign Suzie Jaworowski has announced she is running for HD32. She had previously announced a run for state treasurer, but reconsidered her decision after attending events throughout Indiana and listening to people’s concerns. “I’m running for state representative because I’ve listened to people around the state and to my heart,” Jaworowski said. “My fellow Hoosiers have told me they’re concerned about their future and the future of our country. My heart has told me that I can best help Hoosiers by serving them in the legislature. I’m ready to work for Indiana.”  

Nation

Pence campaigns in NH

Former Vice President Mike Pence made a big swing through New Hampshire on Wednesday. His focus is on President Joe Biden, the economy and helping local Republicans, but the attention Pence is paying to the Granite State Could be an early indicator of interest in 2024 (WMUR-TV). “And I’m here in New Hampshire today, the Granite State, live free or die, to make sure people know that this last bill includes not just nearly $4 trillion in spending, but it literally raises taxes on businesses just like this one,” Pence said. “There’s a lot of talk about ‘22 and you can’t come to New Hampshire without people talking about a few years past that, but I think the battle is right now. We’ve got to stop ‘Build Back Broke’ before it gets to President Biden’s desk.” Pe’s clear that he’s not waiting for his old boss to make a decision (The Derrick). “Come 2023, we’ll reflect, we’ll pray and we’ll respond to that calling, whatever that is,” he said.

Biden approval at 40% in Monmouth Poll

In a new Monmouth University Poll, Biden’s approval rating is ticking down again. The December numbers: 40% approve and 50% disapprove. That’s compared to 42% approval and 50% disapproval in November. About three in 10 Americans name either everyday bills (15%) or inflation specifically (14%) as the biggest concern facing their family right now. This far outpaces COVID (18%) or any other single issue as the top kitchen table worry in the country. “Concerns about inflation have taken center stage in discussions around America’s kitchen tables. And, as one would expect, many are placing the blame squarely on Washington,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

40% believe Roe will be overturned

Morning Consult polling reveals 40% plurality of voters said the high court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, up from 26% who said the same in a May 2019 survey. Overall, 45% of voters said they think Roe should be upheld.