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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sept. 23 (Bloomberg) — Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona likes President Barack Obama, voted to give him the authority to strike Syria, supported the comprehensive immigration legislation favored by the White House, and works comfortably with members of the opposing party.

The six-term House Republican, who is now serving his first term in the Senate, also is a rock-ribbed conservative, especially on economic and fiscal issues. He has been a darling of the Club for Growth; before going to Congress, he ran the Goldwater Institute in his home state.

As a conservative who mixes conviction and civility, he is a member of a vanishing breed. He is an antidote to the Tea Party-driven congressional Republicans who are threatening to shut down the government or risk a U.S. default by refusing to increase the debt ceiling — and don’t withhold their venom toward Obama. (Michigan representative Kerry Bentivolio, for example, delights his constituents with his relish for a presidential impeachment. His animosity runs so deep that he said he “couldn’t stand” to be in the same room with Obama.)

On most social questions, Flake is squarely on the right. He opposes abortion rights, and, unlike Arizona’s senior senator, John McCain, he refused to break with orthodoxy and support a mild background check for gun buyers. He is a Mormon — a graduate of Brigham Young University and a former missionary in Africa — and opposes same-sex marriage. But he isn’t a demagogue; in the House, he voted to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” restriction and to allow gays to serve openly in the armed forces.

‘Better Atmosphere’

Even though he has been attacked from the political right for defying the majority in his party with his Syria and immigration votes, he has no regrets.

“Syria was more about the presidency than the president,” he said in an interview last week outside the Senate chamber. “You’ve got to look beyond the immediate. America benefits from having a strong commander in chief.”

He was a member of the bipartisan Senate Gang of Eight, which crafted a comprehensive immigration-reform measure this year. Six years ago, he backed another effort to change immigration policies. “There’s a much better atmosphere today on immigration than there was in 2007,” he said.

As a U.S. representative, Flake’s successful libertarian-minded campaign to ban earmarks — the small spending projects that members were long allowed to direct to their districts — so annoyed party leaders that he was denied a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Flake acknowledged that ending earmarks also took away a tool lawmakers used to forge compromises though political horse-trading. Nonetheless, he insists that the practice perpetuated an “obscene” system. “Members of Congress used earmarks to contract out their campaign financing,” he said. “It was the currency of corruption.”

He is consistently anti-spending, anti-tax and anti-deficit. A decade ago, he was one of the few House Republicans to oppose President George W. Bush’s expanded prescription-drug benefit for senior citizens because the measure wasn’t paid for. He has favored replacing the income tax with a national sales tax.

On the economy, Obama “has been a disaster,” he said. Yet the athletic and deeply tanned Arizonan concedes that the president “has a good jump shot,” which he observed when he was invited to play in one of the president’s pickup basketball games.

Unlike some of his colleagues, he doesn’t personalize his philosophical differences with Obama. “I’ve never been able to work up the hatred that some Republicans have for the president,” Flake said. “As a person, I like him; he’s a good family man.”

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • John Pigg

    There are far more sensible Republicans around than the National Memo gives credit to. Its refreshing to see an article that isn’t focusing on the raucous House.

    • JD Mulvey

      We’ll see how many sensible Republicans there are in the Senate when they vote on Ted Cruz’ filibuster this week.

      • Robert Haugh

        Why are all the so called sensible Republicans, so willing to let the radical factions of their party rule the roost. When I see some of the so called sensible republicans openly oppose their extremists,in an organized manner,then I’ll come to believe they actually exist,but not until then.

        • JD Mulvey

          I agree. The media constantly talks like there are two wings of the Republican Party. But this alleged “moderate” wing are not moderate in their policies –they’re just slightly less insane.

        • yeehaw

          @Robert…The medical term would be called Lack of a Backbone. The Tea-Party have put the fear of Hell in those who will not tow the line. Most are afraid of a primary challenge from Goofy and his cousin Daffy!!

        • John Pigg

          Problem is they agree with the radical Republicans in theory, just not in style. Democrats seem to view Moderate Republicans as a fallacy because they think that Moderate Republicans should support their legislation and vote with them from time to time.

          Moderate Republicans are still conservative. That is one of the problems of having two ideological parties. Republicans are not going to cross the aisle for issues they don’t believe in. Where they differ is tone, and the National Memo does an atrocious job making the point that not all Republicans are crazy.

          • Robert Haugh

            John, this negativity, mistrust, and absolute resentment that I feel toward the Republican party has come about only in recent years. Actually, It’s the Obama years that the republicans have gone absolutely ape-sh.t . The thought that they were defeated twice by a black man, and by a margin that wasn’t even close, made them all blow their circuits. You talk to some and they try to convince you it’s not about race. they try to turn it back on you,accuse you of always playing the race card. What a crock of crap.Because,apparently they don’t have the brains to not do it, they will, in all likelihood push our economy over the cliff. People who don’t deserve to suffer,will suffer. And long term they will have marginalized their party. They will still get the “don’t know any better” votes,but it will be a very long time before a Republican Occupies the White House.

          • John Pigg

            There are fringes of the Republican Party that have become absolutely unhinged in recent years. I don’t think that anybody would argue this point.

            I also took great pleasure in voting against the GOP in 2012. However, there are conservatives, and Republicans who are mature and adult enough to state their point without being racist or negative. The problem is, they don’t make the news and they don’t sell newspapers.

            The fact is there is a sizable group within the GOP that is not racist. But you can never hear them over the voices of the wackos. This article addresses the fact that there are some Republicans that can make a policy statement or opinions without being racist. The problem is we spend too much time whining about Rush Limbaugh or some weird conservative state legislature and not enough time discussing policy.

  • John Pigg

    I wonder if it is just a coincidence that both the Senators from Arizona support the Presidents decision to bomb Syria. Coincidentally, Arizona depends on Defense Spending for about 6.1% of their GDP.

  • jointerjohn

    Senator Flake has good manners and appears to understand the concept of consensus, two things many republicans on Capitol Hill do not. One look at his voting record however will reveal that he is no less crazy, just taking the managing medication.