By CANDY NEAL
JASPER — U.S. Sen. Mike Braun has been active in Indiana during this congressional recess.
The Dubois County native has been going around the state to visit places, talk to constituents and attend grand openings and ribbon cuttings when invited. The latter activity is a perk.
“I’d like to do this more often,” he told some friends Wednesday morning after attending the ribbon cutting of a local store in Jasper. “This is fun.” He was also planning to attend the ribbon cutting of one of the city’s newest senior living facilities.
Despite being on recess, he still has on his mind different national and international issues, including the current issues that are still lingering.
One of the biggest issues unfolding is the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. What has followed is turmoil and upheaval in the country, which Braun believes could have been avoided.
“It was done in a haphazard disorganized way. There was no reason it had to be unless you self imposed a deadline on yourself,” he said. “We had enough troops there. We had all these fortified bases. We should have closed them down from the perimeter in, and done it in an orderly way. We could have gotten our people and a lot of our arms out, and the Afghanis that helped us. They’re the ones that are probably most at risk.”
He acknowledged that the decision does come from the executive branch. But “there’s going to be a lot of congressional concern, especially if it doesn’t get any better,” Braun said.
“Most Americans don’t want us involved in the long run in places like Afghanistan or Iraq, where you’re trying to build something that it’s only going to work if the local government and the people want to do it,” he said. “We’ve had that lesson in Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan.”
Braun hopes the process becomes better. “I’m hoping that they do get their act in gear to get every American out safely,” he said. “Sadly we’ve marooned who knows how much armor and materiAl. I think that was an unforced error and a mistake. I’m hoping that by putting a few more troops in there in the short run, that the rest of it is done in a more orderly and less embarrassing way.”
On the home front, Braun acknowledged that the COVID-19 virus is still a huge concern.
“It’s been a feisty foe for a long time, and it looks like it’s still got some surprises to pull along the way,” he said. “We’re so lucky we’ve got vaccinations that were sped up. Thank goodness that that process was done in a different way, or we may not even have a vaccine. That was a modern miracle.”
With that, he encourages all who can to get the vaccine. “Unless you have an extremely good reason, you should get vaccinated,” he said.
But he realizes that the vaccine “may not do the trick, if this thing keeps mutating.
“And all the variants have not come from here; they’ve come from mostly overseas,” Braun said. “So that also begs the question, ‘How do you get the rest of the world vaccinated?’ ”
He still encourages Americans to do their due diligence by getting vaccinated.
“With vaccinations available, you need to get it,” he said. “I’m hoping people keep doing it, and don’t dismiss this (the virus). Treat it with respect, because who knows how long it’s going to be around.”
When Congress goes back into session in early September, Braun said he will continue to work on health care.
“The high cost of health care is still the No. 1 issue out there, if you didn’t have all the other diversions. I’ve been the most outspoken senator about reforming the system like I did in my own business,” he said. “It’s to avoid what happened when we got (Affordable Care Act), which to me was big government and big health insurance, and it never quite worked. And the Republicans didn’t have any game plan; they were just not interested. We’re not going to survive as a party if we’re the party of no or I’m not interested.”
He will also continue to work on matters involving the climate. “ I was the first Republican to get us involved in the discussion,” he said. “And that’s probably where I’ve had the most input.”
But Braun knows that infrastructure will still be a major topic when the Senate and House come back together. He plans to be a part of that discussion as well.
“Everybody wants stuff through the federal government. But there are only a handful of us that have run something and done budgets and live within our means, kind of like we do around here,” he said. “I’m going to always be reminding the American public and Hoosiers that we (need to) get back to where the federal government runs like most states.”
He wants to encourage other Republicans in Congress to be vocal about those issues in a productive manner.
“I’m hoping that I can encourage those on my side of the aisle to stand for what we generally do,” he said, “and that’s sanity in our budget and taking on issues like health care and climate, but doing it from a small government conservative point of view. I’ll keep weighing in on that going forward.”