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Dems have burden on them because we're willing to vote for something: GOP Senator

Yahoo Finance's On the Move panel discuss the latest on the pared-down coronavirus relief bill with Republican Senator Mike Braun.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: The Republicans have ruled out what is being called a skinny stimulus package. So let's bring in Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, to talk about that. Our Jessica Smith is joining us as well.

Senator, it's good to see you again. So this new plan is skinnier, because it is a bit lower in terms of spending. It does include $300 in unemployment benefits versus the $600 that had been talked about. But it also doesn't necessarily seem like there is much of a chance of it getting through. What is the strategy here at this point on the part of the GOP?

MIKE BRAUN: So I think among especially some of the more conservative members fiscally, seven or eight of us kind of huddled up over the last couple of weeks to talk about the top-line figure. There would have been several Republicans not voting for it if it was even at the HEALS level of $1 trillion, I think, because a lot of money was still unspent from the CARES Act. We really looked into what we could repurpose, looked at the, really, areas of need, and found that it was a lot less than even the HEALS Act.

And I think that $500 billion figure-- we got a few things in there that we were interested in in terms of like school choice as well. I really wanted health care transparency. That's by far the biggest issue still in DC, the high cost of health care. We'll get back to that when COVID's in the rearview mirror.

But in general, I think this will get, hopefully, 51 Republican votes. Probably won't get one Democratic vote. Then the dynamic will switch back to the White House and the Democrats, taking the cue from what the baseline would be to keep some of the more conservative Republicans on board.

And every day we get closer to the election, there's less likelihood that something's going to happen anyway. A state like mine, Indiana, in the black every year-- balanced budget amendment, rainy day fund that was over 10% of its operating budget-- it's already down into the mid-sevens in terms of unemployment rate.

I'm from the biggest manufacturing county per capita in the state. We're about ready to cross into the high fives. Other than a few definitely impacted businesses, like sports venues, entertainment venues, hotels-- even airlines. The flight I took back from Indy to DC, every seat was filled yesterday.

So it depends on which state you are. If you did operate in ways that put your annual budgets in peril, underfunded pensions-- that's where a lot of the Democrats' stuff is coming from. I don't think that's our responsibility to pay for their mismanagement.

JESSICA SMITH: Hi, Senator Braun. It's Jessica Smith here. I mean, you said it gets less likely as we get closer to the election. But there has been no progress, essentially, over the past several months. At this point, do you think that something is going to get done before the election?

MIKE BRAUN: I think that the Democrats have the burden on them here, because we're willing to vote for something. Theirs has got a lot in there that's totally unrelated to COVID or the impact from it. I think they're putting a high price on liability protection for schools, hospitals, businesses that are trying to get back in operation.

And I think that they're going to run a risk politically that they're the ones not willing to come to the table, because we're going to vote for something that won't probably get a Democratic vote. But at least it's something rather than a wishlist that's got so much in there that I think almost every American knows that we can't afford.

JULIE HYMAN: Senator, another measure that is in the GOP package is a cut to the Federal Reserve's ability to expand or create its lending program-- so a reduction in funding that was awarded in the CARES Act. What's the thinking behind that?

MIKE BRAUN: Well, the thinking behind that is it was totally underutilized. There was that much liquidity in the system, even without that. And the Main Street lending program, or I think that was a reference to that general liquidity, just was not used.

Some might argue that it was clumsy to try to take advantage of. But in general, I still am closer to being a CEO than a seasoned senator, OK? I just started this business a year and a half ago.

The CEOs that I'm talking to-- and my company is about a third logistics, a trucking company, and about 2/3 distribution. Manufacturers across the biggest manufacturing state per capita in the country, Indiana. We are more handicapped by issues like workforce development. The competition of having that $600 enhanced unemployment benefit, many are not going to like the fact that there will be a $300 benefit out there.

So that's the difference between states that have run themselves as business friendly, lived within their means in their own state government, and some that haven't. So I really believe that we had such a great economy going into it. We're seeing that flex its muscles coming back.

And the disparities that were in place due to how you run your state governments and the business environment are the differentiators that I don't think we in the federal government should try to weigh in on. And I think that's where the Democrats are coming from.

JESSICA SMITH: Senator, so what happens if nothing gets done? Do you think that the economy can-- will be OK if there's no stimulus at all?

MIKE BRAUN: I definitely think that we're going to get back, because this is not '08 or '09. And the Obama-Biden economy that was tepid coming out of a deep recession has had the characteristics of the last four years with the Trump economy being as vivacious as any that I've seen. I think that means a lot.

And we've also got now six, seven months of knowing how to fight the formidable foe of COVID-19. Our health care system has stood up to the challenge. You can see that in the fatality rates and the hospitalization rates. And I think that has gotten friendlier.

Plus, we all now know that it's not going to take us down. And we've gotten a lot smarter how to live side by side with it. And I think that bodes well for not piling on trillions and trillions of debt to where, yes, it might be a little slow go for some of the states that kind of had issues before.

I think it's up to those states differentially figuring out how to get themselves back on their feet. And yes, the federal government, I think, has to be there, even in cases where you've got real risk of maybe that not happening, just not to the tune of what the Democrats are asking for.

JULIE HYMAN: Senator Mike Braun of Indiana, thank you so much, sir, for joining us. Appreciate it.

MIKE BRAUN: You're really welcome.