IN Focus: Holcomb, Bucshon talk delta variant, Braun discusses infrastructure

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – Many officials are urging Hoosiers to follow the new CDC recommendations on masks as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Indiana.

“I would recommend taking every safe step possible, imaginable, doable to keep the kiddos in school,” Gov. Eric Holcomb told reporters last week.

Holcomb said he doesn’t want to see students face any additional learning loss this school year.

“There are steps that schools can take, many are, as they go back, they’ve stated, about distancing, about masking,” he said.

Holcomb said he’s most worried about those who are eligible to get vaccinated but don’t have antibodies for protection because they have not gotten vaccinated and haven’t had the virus.

He wants to see the FDA give the vaccines full approval to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“I want to see the EUA, the emergency use authorization, turned into permanent,” Holcomb said. “I do hear and I do understand parents, students who are waiting until it becomes permanent. I just spent a few days with about over 20 other governors. And I think to a person we were all kind of scratching our head as to when will this become permanent? We have millions who have been treated, the trials have been conducted … This needs to become permanent.”

We asked Gov. Holcomb whether he would require the vaccine for state employees as we’ve seen in California and New York. He said he’s “leaning against” doing that for now.

Indiana passed a law earlier this year that bans state and local governments from issuing or requiring vaccine passports.

Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-Indiana) also believes full FDA approval of the vaccines could eventually end up making a difference in terms of getting more people vaccinated.

“I’m concerned in Indiana because the vaccination rate is relatively low,” Bucshon said. “I think nationally, it’s about 58%. In the Congress, it’s over 85%. In certain areas of the country it’s high.

“The delta variant spreads more rapidly. I don’t think it’s going to turn out to be more dangerous than the other variants, it just spreads more easily.

“We’re trying to get the timeline from the Food and Drug Administration on final approval of these vaccines. They’re under an emergency use authorization, as you know, and I think some people are a little nervous about that. They think they’re still experimental, which they’re not. But I do think formal approval from the FDA, if that can be done, would be helpful.”

When asked whether private businesses should require the vaccine, Bucshon said, “As a government official, I don’t think government should require medical therapy. So I think the private sector, that’s their own decision. I’m not going to comment on individual private sector organizations and what they think is right. Government certainly should not be mandating medical procedures of any kind, including vaccinations.

“What government should be doing is giving all the information to the American people and letting them, along with their physician, and their family make the decision that’s right for them.”

Amid some controversy this week in Congress about new mask mandates from the House Speaker, Congressman Bucshon has introduced a bill that would provide some bipartisan oversight for those kinds of decisions in Congress.

Meanwhile in Washington, the U.S. Senate is now debating a tentative agreement to fund President Biden’s infrastructure spending bill. There’s debate on how much the final plan should cost and how the government can afford to pay for it.

Some say the $1.2 trillion dollar price tag is too much, while others say it’s not enough.

This week we spoke one-on-one with Sen. Mike Braun, who voted against moving forward with the current infrastructure deal – despite acknowledging that he agrees with a number of items in the bill.

“The problem here is we never look at the underlying issues like the fact we haven’t done a budget in 20 years and that we borrow almost all the money that we spend here, and I like the policy mostly embedded in it, but these are not hard pay-fors,” Braun said. “You never run any other entity, government or business in that fashion.”

After predicting the bill will pass the Senate, we asked Braun whether his procedural vote against the bill was a protest vote.

“It is, and it has been on most things since I’ve been here,” Braun responded. “And I always explain it accordingly because if someone doesn’t do that, our kids and grandkids are going to have not only an inflation bomb, but a debt bomb to deal with.”

Sen. Todd Young voted to move forward with the debate on the infrastructure bill.

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