The week following the presidential election heard round the world, Arizona U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake shared his reaction, concerns and hopes for working with the Donald Trump administration and a GOP majority Congress for the first time in his senatorial career.
Although Flake was not a supporter of Trump during the campaign, he said he’s ready to move forward and highlighted some positives he sees coming in the near future under President Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress.
“My mother’s motto was ‘assume the best and look for the good,’” Flake said to an audience of Arizona business leaders. “That’s what I’m doing with this election and going forward. There are some very good things that can happen right away.”
Chief among Flake’s hopes for the immediate future is a return to the federal government’s standard appropriations process. Running the country on continuing resolutions for the past several years has yanked “the power of the purse” from Congress. Flake hopes Trump will rescind many of the rules dictated by federal agencies and executive orders by Obama during his administration.
“We haven’t been able to regulate the regulators and you (the business community) have felt it,” Flake said. “Whether it is financial, environmental or labor regulations, they’ve been able to do whatever they want.”
Flake also expects swift movement on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, perhaps even the one approved by Congress last year and vetoed by Obama in January.
“We can put a bill on his desk on his first day in office to repeal the relevant elements of Obamacare,” Flake said. “But we also have to have a plan to deal with the uninsurable.”
Two areas of concern for Flake include the country’s stifling debt and the status of free international trade.
The most significant driver of the federal debt is entitlement program spending, which includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and federal debt service. Flake says it will take a bipartisan solution to reform debt-driving entitlement spending, which threatens to damage the U.S. credit rating and consume the rest (discretionary portion) of the budget, which pays for infrastructure, defense, research and federal education priorities among others things.
“Without some offsets on the mandatory spending side, the markets will speak and we’ll not be in control in Congress, the administration will not be in control, it will be our creditors who are in control,” he said.
Another area of particular concern to Flake is international trade. Mexico is Arizona’s biggest trading partner and state and local government officials have spent several years making trips to Mexico to ensure its doors are open to Arizona businesses. And these days, Flake said, trade with Mexico is beyond just imports and exports.
“We’ve got to continue robust trade through NAFTA. Too few people recognize that trade with Mexico is an integrated supply chain,” he said. “I hope that this talk of ripping up NAFTA has been just idle talk.”
Despite his differences with the president-elect, Flake also struck a tone of optimism for a fruitful working relationship with President Trump.
“I was happy with the speech Trump gave on Election Night. I thought it was gracious, uplifting and healing,” Flake said. “If he governs like that, we’ll be in good shape.”
– Written by Josh Coddington, marketing and communications manager, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.