The Rundown Jeff Flake

Jeff FlakeBest known for this term: Being the Capitol pork slayer. Were talking monumental efforts here at fighting tacked-on appropriations to spending bills – from introducing 19 anti-pork amendments for one bill to creating a finger-pointing website to attempting to kill House Speaker Dennis Hasterts very own project. Dismayed that taxpayers are still footing the bill for projects like the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame (and that earmarking has exploded since Republicans took control), Flake calls the process the gateway drug to a spending addiction and the currency of bribery. Quote: Weve been spending like drunken sailors for far too long.

Most notably, Flake is credited for killing the Bridge to Nowhere, a $223 million boondoggle in Alaska that would have serviced a whopping 50 people. But its not just the cost of these projects that bothers the Congressman, its the potential for abuse. Jack Abramoff reportedly referred to the (House) Appropriations Committee as a favor factory., he warned in a letter to Hastert. No one who has seen the process firsthand, as we have, would honestly dispute his characterization.

Nowhere was this more problematic this year than in Homeland Security funding, where Arizona was a loser. Flake accused leaders of picking favorites, allocating projects to members who are good at the earmarking game rather than creating triages for areas of highest threat potential.

We simply have too much power
Flake is notorious for breaking rank; he voted with House leaders only 53% of the time and was asked (jokingly) by President Bush to not be so dang independent.

He was a vocal critic of GOP member scandals, saying that they were making his party look worse than the Democrats did in their heyday. He called for a course correction after Tom Delays resignation (the face of the culture gone bad in Washington).

How, he wondered, do we convince the voters in the midterm elections that two more years of Republican control will produce anything more than bigger government and growing deficits?

Budget hawk
Its not just earmarks that Flake would erase if he had his way – he supports across-the-board domestic spending cuts to a variety of programs: student loans, the Medicare drug plan, agriculture subsidies and programs for the poor. The notion that we dont have any fat to cut is just I mean, if the federal government wore a dress, it would have to be a muumuu, he said.

Flake so frequently votes nay on bills that its become a story in itself. Some of the bills hes voted against: $1.3 billion for technical education, upgrades to federal emergency communications systems, an alternative fuels grant program, establishing Financial Literacy Month, assistance for orphans in developing countries and The Childrens Safety Act of 2005, among others.

Katrina controversy
After Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast, Flake was only one of 11 members of Congress to vote against a $50 billion relief package. He explained that he would rather have seen the money doled out in smaller increments over time for purposes of accountability. In the weeks that followed, he demanded that the money for Katrina come out of the budget elsewhere, namely by delaying the Medicare Drug Benefit. He questioned putting evacuees on cruise ships (at a cost of $236 million), introduced a bill to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act, and publicized wild booze binges purchased with FEMA funds. Taxpayers should be upset, he remarked.

Enforcement-first immigration reform a fad
Flake has been one of the Houses most ardent supporters of a comprehensive immigration reform package, calling enforcement-first a fad. Hes lashed back at charges that a guest-worker program equates to amnesty: The call to enforce our current laws makes for good rhetoric, but it would require rounding up all illegal immigrants and shipping them home, which makes it just that rhetoric.

He teamed up with Jim Kolbe to introduce a bill that found support among John McCain and President Bush, but ultimately never made it to the House floor.

Referring to Proposition 187, Flake said, I encourage Republicans to not repeat what happened in California in 1994. It works for one cycle and then you pay a price for a decade. In a few weeks, we will know for sure.

Flake, for the record, is one of many Republican House members who wants to stop anchor babies. He also wants a plan to keep illegals from getting federal ID cards (though state ID is the states perogative. And as far as enforcement goes: find employers who are hiring illegals, and slap them hard.

Why youd re-elect him: Who better to represent penny-pinching Mesa? Besides, its entertaining to watch Flake hold others feet to the fire, including Republicans in high places. Especially when the high place is the White House, and the issue is Cuba.

Why youd toss him out: If Flake isnt Libertarian enough for you, theres a bona fide Libertarian in the race. Otherwise, hell be coming back for his fifth of three terms.

Jeff Flake is running against Libertarian Jason Blair.

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