Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake earned kudos on Wednesday from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for posting what an organization director called a pro-business voting record.
Flake, a Republican from Mesa, received the U.S. Chamber’s Spirit of Enterprise Award at the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce’s most recent good government series event on Aug. 21. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Western Region Executive Director Dick Castner said legislators receive the award for voting on issues favorable to businesses at least 70 percent of the time in a year.
Although the sample size was small, Castner said Flake voted in favor of businesses 10 times out of 12 opportunities.
“We think that’s wonderful and we love working with Jeff,” Castner said.
The event, which was sponsored by the Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe Scottsdale and Apache Junction chambers, SRP and other businesses, also featured a question and answer session with Flake on a variety of issues. One of the more prominent issues he addressed was the ongoing deadlock in Washington D.C. he said has limited the progress Congress can make on numerous nominations and issues.
The problem, he said, doesn’t stem from the rules of the senate, but from the behavior of the senators on both sides of the aisle.
“It can be intensely frustrating when you’re trying to move things through. On the other hand, that’s how the founders wanted it,” he said.
An issue the political gridlock has influenced is immigration reform, which Flake has become heavily invested in as a member of the gang of eight. Composed of four Republican senators, including fellow Arizonan John McCain, and four Democratic senators, the group has spent approximately six months creating a bill that would increase border security and provide a road to citizenship for qualifying immigrants.
Flake, who received credit from Castner for his work on immigration reform, said the bill the bi-partisan committee has worked on features a high level of border security he thinks will benefit Arizona, which he said has suffered the consequences of lax border control.
The bill passed the Senate in June with 68 votes, but the House of Representatives has not addressed it since. Flake puts the odds of some iteration of the bill reaching President Barack Obama at “just over 50/50.”
“You have to have a bi-partisan bill that’s going to pass,” he said.
Also brought up was the impending enactment of the Affordable Care Act — the healthcare reform bill President Obama signed into law in 2010. While certain parts of the reform, also called Obamacare, have already been enacted, other components will come online beginning in January. Enrollment for one aspect of the bill, the Health Care Marketplaces, begins Oct. 1. Once they come into services, the marketplaces will provide information about a variety of healthcare plans for individuals, families and small businesses.
The enactment of pieces of the Affordable Care Act like the marketplaces has created a push from Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee to defund the program by effectively causing a government shutdown beginning Oct. 1. The plan has drawn criticism from other GOP senators like McCain and Tom Coburn, and Flake, who emphasized he is against Obamacare, said the route championed by Cruz, Paul and Lee is not the way to eliminate the law.
“I think that would be folly to fall on the sword,” he said.
Other issues he discussed during the event include cotton subsidies, the sequester, entitlement reform, problems with the federal agencies like the EPA, mandatory sentencing, the NSA and the potential merger of US Airways and American Airlines.
Prior to his election to the Senate in 2012, Flake served as a representative for Arizona’s first and sixth districts from 2001 until his final term expired in 2013. The Hill, a publication that covers Washington D.C. politics, recently named the 50-year-old the most beautiful person in the Capitol. Flake took a self-detriment
Flake's reaction to the designation was heavy on self-deprecation.
“Washington is Hollywood for ugly people,” he said.
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