Senator Jeff Flake, Republican, Arizona

Guest of former Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Republican strategist, Charles Warren, at Cottonwood Country Club Monday, July 17, 2017

Senator Flake was one of those practicing at the baseball field on the morning of June 14, 2017 when a gunman opened fire, wounding Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise and two Capital Hill Security officers. Sen. Flake helped to pull the Congressman from the field.

This article will be shared somewhat in the question/answer style, as it was among a group gathered, that Sen. Flake was responding.

Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz introducing Sen. Flake – “When I got to Washington I was wondering where I was going to find a buddy to go biking with in the morning.

Then I realized Jeff was a cyclist so I grabbed him and the two of us started biking together. And it was one of the very first mornings and never fails, we saw someone we knew.

It was Senator Mike Lee who was quick to shout, ‘Good morning elders!’

And today it’s my honor to introduce a good friend and great Senator, Senator Jeff Flake.” (Both Chaffetz and Flake are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is known for its missionaries traveling on bikes in pairs.)

Senator Jeff Flake – “Thank you very much Jason. What our biking became was just a measured way of going from one burger joint to another one along the way for Congressman Chaffetz.

I want you to all know that there were times I slept in my office. I just didn’t have the cot, nor did I get famous for doing it.”

Senator Flake continued the joking as he laughingly stated – “What Jason really used me for was his office mouse catcher. I’d know just where to set the trap baited with peanut butter – couldn’t even get Jason to put the peanut butter on the trap.

I’d set it, put it in place and didn’t matter how long we biked, we’d get back and have a mouse. And of course, (Sen. Flake laughed), I had to catch and DISPOSE of them too!”

With no argument coming from former Congressman Chaffetz, the Senator moved on to a bit more serious discussion.

Senator Flake – “Thank you for inviting me here. We have a very tough race coming up. We did in 2012 as well. I was just one of the three Republican open seats to have survived.

In 2018 the Democrats have 25 to defend to the 8 for Republicans. And already between Nevada and Arizona they’ve spent $5 million and the vote is 18 months away!

Cheryl (Senator Flake’s wife) and I were in Nevada on Saturday at a fundraiser for Senator Dean Heller. They are hitting us this early when they can buy the advertising cheaper. They are running ads, back to back to back.”

Senator Flake was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2000. He began serving in 2001 and was re-elected six times. He ran for the Senate in 2012. And following his victory was sworn-in January 2013.

In a very jovial way, Sen. Flake related the following – “So it’s tradition, that a new Senator has to wait about six months before they are allowed to give the Maiden Speech. The one actually from the Senate Floor. It used to be sometimes up to two years.

You call your family and it’s tradition they all gather around the television at home. You maybe have a few people from the office in the gallery. When I gave mine, Cheryl and the kids (the Flakes have five) were at home gathered around the television.

As I started to talk on the Senate Floor for the first time. There rolling across the bottom of the screen was – Senator Dean Heller, Nevada.

We hurried and called C-Span and let them know. They said, ‘Sorry, but all you Mormons look alike!’”

After the laughing among the group grew quiet the first question to come Senator Flake’s way dealt with healthcare.

Senator Flake —  “We in Arizona are Ground Zero for Obamacare failure, but at the same time a state experiencing growth in Medicaid. Since Obamacare came into play Arizona has added 400,000 people to Medicaid. Now, try and roll that back!

We have seen 183,000 pay the fine. That’s $36 million… and after that they still can’t find insurance because of premiums and deductibles.

I’ve got a friend. Who has to pay $40,000 in premium before the insurance kicks in. We have 14 to 15 counties with no carriers at all. Arizona has a growing Medicaid population that is terrified the rug is about to be pulled out from under them… again.”

Senator Flake told the group that with Senator McCain’s surgery and time to recuperate, it will be at least two to three weeks before a vote on healthcare.

Senator Flake – “Healthcare is a tough one. It’s as if the Democrats knew if we were into it six years, it was going to be difficult to uproot.”

With that timeframe before any resolution or debate can happen, Sen. Flake said the time needs to be spent on tax reform.

Sen. Flake – “We need to take up tax reform. Good old, lower the rates and broaden the base.”

If this doesn’t happen in the next three to four months, Sen. Flake indicated it was his feeling it won’t happen at all. “If we let this go and not have it finished before the end of the year. Well, I don’t see it happening at all.”

Acknowledging he was not on the “Trump Train,” during the campaign, Sen. Flake even acknowledged he’s heard the rumblings of some Presidential involvement in a GOP primary. (It is being rumored the White House is recruiting GOP candidate to then back $$$ against the incumbent, Sen. Flake —  “Have to assume it might happen. And if it does that’s why I would need to raise $12 to $13 million. The last Senate race happening in Nevada similar to this saw $100 million spent. Arizona is beginning to look like a very similar race.”

And Sen. Flake pointed to the fact since the Trump Administration has kicked in, he’s voted in a pro-Trump fashion, but there has only been one vote. And that one was an almost 100-percent of the Senate and was the vote to continue the sanctions against Russia. “Although, With the votes on CRA’s, to negate business regulations. I’ve voted with the President every time.”

Sen. Flake spoke to the need for President Trump to be careful with NAFTA, because of some of the benefits the US and its agricultural and manufacturing communities get.

Sen. Flake has been very active in putting forward pulling down trade barriers against Cuba even during the Obama years. He pointed out that before the ban was lifted, no Cuban was employed in private enterprise. “Now. There are 1 out of every 4 Cubans employed in the private sector,” Sen. Flake very excitedly pointed out. “That means in a restaurant, a salon, a bar, or a bed and breakfast. They are getting a taste of freedom,” said Sen. Flake.

“I always said we needed to lift the ban and let Castro experience a couple of spring breaks,” Sen. Flake said with a good natured chuckle.

During the previous administration and because of Sen. Flake’s work on seeing a change in US-Cuba relations; and efforts involving attempts to secure the release of US government contractor Alan Gross who was arrested and imprisoned in 2009; with Sen. Flake and his family traveling to Cuba in November 2014 for Flake to actually meet Gross and attempt his negotiated release and failing – because of that, President Obama called Sen. Flake in December 2014 and asked him to join a prisoner exchange between the US and Havana.

Sen. Flake – “It was just like a Cold War era spy exchange. They asked me to be at Andrews Air Base. We boarded a jet and as we took off there were two other jets in the air having taken off from other air force bases.

We were flying with Alan’s wife, and the other two aircraft were carrying with them Cubans whom had been held in the United States. Thirty-one minutes after we landed in Cuba, Alan was on the plane and we were headed for home! It was incredible.”

Asked about both Iran and North Korea, Sen. Flake said, regarding Iran. “The best thing we can do there – leave things as they are. The Iranians are starting to see the benefits of what they have there. I wish it would have been presented as a treaty to Congress. If it had we’d better have been able to stipulate some things.”

With North Korea, Sen. Flake said President Trump, “Is not doing a thing wrong with that one. China does need to step up a bit more and be the one to get the ball rolling. There may have to be a move militarily, but there is not a scenario there that doesn’t see hundreds of thousands of casualties in Seoul.”

In referencing changes to healthcare and especially did he see it happening? Sen. Flake said, “Crazy tweets and chaos, but at a 53-percent growth rate to the economy. I think people will forgive it.”

By Clark Caras

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