U.S. Sen. Mike Braun

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana

(The Center Square) – Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, is co-sponsoring a bill that would protect essential workers from being fired for not complying with an employer vaccine mandate – with essential workers taken to mean police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, border patrol agents, truckers, grocery store workers, pilots, flight attendants, construction workers and some others.

The bill, called the “Keeping Our Covid-19 Heroes Employed Act” was authored by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. Braun and several other Republican senators signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill would exempt all “essential workers” from all federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and from employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates if that employer has contracts with the federal government or receives federal funds for any other reason, including through the CARES Act.

At a virtual press conference Thursday, Braun referred to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates as “astounding,” saying he never imagined the federal government would mandate vaccinations.

“Everyone is afraid. Not just the essential workers," he said. "I’m talking about federal employees where that shoe is getting ready to drop any day, and they’re going to be the first forced to make a tough decision.”

“But what this shows more than anything is, remember, we spent billions, into the trillions, to keep people at their jobs, through the CARES Act,” Braun said, “and now you’ve got an administration and the other side of the aisle that is forgetting all of that and trying to do something that, in my opinion, is going to be more draconian and have more bad effect than anything we’ve done along the way.”

Braun said he and the other sponsors of the legislation would try to use the bill as a “pivot point” to “get the government to back off…” on the issue of mandates.

Braun was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, defeating Democrat senator Joe Donnelly.  At the time of his election, he’d been the CEO of a southern Indiana company for 37 years – an auto parts company called Meyer Distributing that is based in town of Jasper, the same town where Braun was born, grew up and graduated from high school.

Meyer Distributing is a company staffed with a lot of long-term employees, many of whom have chosen not to get the vaccine, Braun recently shared.

He says the company took the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, and took precautions.

“We didn’t dismiss it,” he said in September. “But we don’t marinate in fear.”

He said the issue of the Biden vaccine mandate on federal contractors, and the announcement of the coming vaccine mandate for employers with 100 employees or more, has “dwarfed” every other issue in terms of the uproar it’s caused among his constituents – both business owners and employees.

With more than 100 employees, Meyer Distributing would be subject to a federal OSHA regulation – which the Biden administration announced is coming – that will mandate companies with 100 or more employees make those employees get the vaccine or submit to weekly testing.