President Donald Trump’s first six months in office has not necessarily been conservative enough, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake argued on Monday.
“I do think that … some things he has done has been conservative. I think he appointed a great Supreme Court justice. The regulatory policy that he has embraced is conservative. His instincts on tax policy are conservative,” Flake, a Republican who is up for reelection in 2018, said on CBS. ” But some things are profoundly unconservative. Protectionist attitude, trying to get out of multi-national free trade agreements. Isolationism. That’s not conservative.”
Trump has piled on a barrage of attacks against the GOP-controlled Senate, which failed last week to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act that it had campaigned on since the health care bill’s passage. In a series of tweets following the last votes on health care, the president called for the end of the legislative filibuster.
Flake, who did vote for the skinny Obamacare repeal early Friday morning, said ending the Senate rule that requires some legislation be passed with 60 votes “would be a big mistake.”
“We work our best in the Senate when we work across the aisle. I think with Obamacare, many of the problems it has was because it was pushed through by one party. By the same token, we found it difficult as one party to repeal it,” Flake said. “So I don’t want to lurch back and forth every couple of years from one extreme to the other.”
And amid Republicans’ failed attempt to repeal former President Barack Obama’s key legislative achievement, Flake said Congress should have started with infrastructure instead, which could have improved the chances of agenda items such as health care.
” I think we should have started with something else,” Flake said.
Flake is finishing a book this year that contrasts Trump’s version of conservatism with that of his own–and he wrote it largely in secret, not even telling many staffers about it.
“We have a crisis of principle and we need to get back to what conservative really means and I think that’s a combination for the future,” Flake said, acknowledging that the book was “tough to write” but necessary.
Flake and Trump have had an antagonistic relationship that dates back to last year. Flake refused to endorse Trump during the 2016 campaign, and the president has not forgotten.
Several potential primary challengers to Flake, one of the most vulnerable Republicans in 2018, have met with White House officials. The president privately said last fall that he was interested in bankrolling upwards of $10 million for whoever Flake’s primary challenger is.