BULLHEAD CITY — “Not being on the ballot this year is a wonderful thing,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., as he spoke last week before the Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce.
Flake is traveling around the state as he prepares for a re-election bid in 2018.
Making it clear that he’s not likely to vote for the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Flake indirectly went after Trump on one of his signature issues: trade.
“NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) has become a four-letter word,” Flake said.
“If we don’t trade, we lose out. Tariffs on Mexican goods will put American companies out of business,” he said. “NAFTA is a net positive for us. We all benefit from free trade.”
Regarding immigration, Flake said, “Legal immigration is our life blood.” He said there aren’t enough native-born Americans having children to replenish the work force.
Flake also spoke of the country’s accepting refugees from war-torn Middle Eastern countries. “I hope we never become a country that doesn’t accept any refugees,” he said, but “they need to be vetted as carefully as possible.”
The border with Mexico is not secure, Flake said, because it’s too open to drugs and potential terrorists.
“We can’t afford to have a porous border,” he said. But we need to “ensure commerce continues” across the border with Mexico which generates $17 billion in goods and services annually, Flake said.
The $20 trillion national deficit is a concern.
“We keep adding to it. I really worry about that,” he said, with retiring baby boomers tapping into Social Security and Medicare.
There needs to be entitlement reform, with a higher retirement age to qualify for Social Security and a means test for Medicare, Flake said.
Obamacare should “be limited to insurance of last resort,” he said, with insurance remaining market-based, allowing policies to be purchased across state lines. They should be tailored to the individual, with a single male not having a policy that includes maternity coverage, Flake said.
Problems need to be solved in a bipartisan manner, he said.
“Both parties have to come together,” which is difficult in today’s political climate. “We’re at each others’ throats,” with opponents considered “not just wrong, but evil,” he said.
Flake is serving in his first term in the Senate, having been elected in 2012. He previously served for 12 years in the U.S. House, representing the Phoenix metro’s East Valley.