A Gadfly or Just a Flake?
Arizona Republican is charting an independent course
The phone in Arizona GOP Rep. Jeff Flake's office rarely stops ringing and few of the callers are pleased.
"My staff has learned a lot of new vocabulary," Flake laughs.
As one of the most vocal House Republicans backing comprehensive immigration reform, Flake has been inundated with calls from critics. Flake had hoped his immigration bill, which is similar to the Senate's "grand bargain" but provides a route for temporary workers to gain citizenship, would serve as the foundation for the House's efforts. But the Senate vote last week against cloture most likely puts the bill in dry dock. Still, Flake is no stranger to lonely, seemingly futile campaigns, or to having his positions rile the party faithful.
Internationalist. First elected in 2000, Flake partially links his immigration stance to time spent abroad as a Mormon missionary in Africa, which he says gave him a more internationalist outlook. But while some in his district see his views on immigration as a betrayal of Republican values, Flake sees them as an extension of his staunch fiscal conservatismwhich stands for open markets with few labor restrictions. It's the same fiscal conservatism that caused him to oppose Bush's prescription drug bill and to highlight an "Egregious Earmark of the Week," often one requested by a Republican. The GOP has not been amused. In January, the House Republican leadership stripped Flake of his seat on the House Judiciary Committee.
Flake resists suggestions he is simply seeking self promotion, arguing that he's long held such views. If he'd just started acting this way, "I guess I would worry about that perception more," he says, adding: "Aw, frankly I wouldn't worry about it anyway."
This story appears in the June 18, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.