The late conservative columnist, Robert Novak, once referred to Arizona’s new U.S. senator, as an “insistent reformer.” During his 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Flake helped bring about what many insiders considered impossible: essentially eliminating earmarks from appropriation bills. During his House tenure he also worked on a failed effort to reform the nation’s immigration system and some important and yet-to-be enacted reforms to our environmental laws to reflect regional realities.
Senator Flake is back at it.
At the Arizona Chamber’s Update from Capitol Hill event earlier this week before over 500 attendees, Sen. Flake provided behind-the-scenes insights on several key issues such as sequestration and immigration reform.
On sequestration, the senator said he understands the angst over this blunt budgetary tool in a state like Arizona that has such a strong defense industry. But the need for some spending reductions is important, too, according to Sen. Flake. The real action, he said, will need to occur on entitlement reform. He did seem to believe that some big deal to tame a $16 trillion+ debt was possible, but far from imminent, and he believes that such a deal would include comprehensive tax reform. He noted President Obama’s willingness to make some reforms, albeit revenue neutral, in the corporate tax arena.
Not surprisingly, with his role alongside our senior senator, John McCain, as part of the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration reform effort, and the news of breakthrough on a new “W” visa for lower-skilled workers, the bulk of his comments were directed at the legislative soup being concocted on one of the most pressing issues of our day.
In terms of border security, he made it clear we need a secure border, not sealed one. He discussed his recent tour of the border with Sen. McCain and Sens. Michael Bennett (D-CO) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), where the delegation even witnessed a woman’s attempt to scale the border wall into the U.S. (Her attempted entry was unsuccessful.) The tour was a valuable one, as it gave Sen. Schumer a chance to tour the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time. The fifth-generation Arizonan also spoke of the trade we do with Mexico, Arizona’s largest trading partner, and the need to promote lawful, productive commerce with our neighbor.
Sen. Flake also echoed the sentiment of fellow “Gang” member Sen. Marco Rubio, who is urging Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy not to rush legislative action on an immigration package, but rather to give it its proper consideration with hearings, testimony and debate. The senator said not taking up the bill in regular order would be to put the entire legislation at risk.
The senator pointed out that if Congress could successfully tackle a serious issue like immigration reform, it would provide some confidence in the institution and could portend progress on other serious issues, such as taming the soaring national debt.
Our audience was extremely impressed by Sen. Flake’s remarks, which even featured some funny anecdotes from the confines of the Senate cloak room. We are extremely fortunate to have Sen. Flake as our insistent reformer in Washington alongside Sen. McCain. I am confident that together they will continue to represent Arizona with distinction as they tackle the most important issues.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry