Senator Jeff Flake has scheduled a town hall Thursday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. PT. According to the email sent out by his office, which includes a code of conduct, the venue seats 1,750 people. This town hall is bound to go a little differently than his telephone town hall in March. These are my notes from the last town hall. There were no responses to his answers so I assume the callers were no longer on the line.
1. He was asked about Arizona’s plans for public land. He said land trades were common in the past and that they were only talking about 6,000 acres of BLM land out of 137,000.
2. On immigration, he said policy should be based on national security, not nationality.
3. On the environment, he began by saying that he loves the outdoors. However he thinks we need common-sense regulations and that Arizona is being penalized for dust storms that have nothing to do with development or human activity.
4. When asked how he could vote for Betsy DeVos, he said “Elections have consequences,” and the president deserves his cabinet. After all, he said, he confirmed Obama’s Attorney General even though she was unqualified.
5. On the concern that a border wall will split a reservation in Tucson, he said that is one of the complexities about the wall that people don’t understand.
6. When asked why he didn’t hold a town hall the previous week, he said that he had to stay in Washington because of the nomination process.
7. One caller asked how he could say he cares about veterans when bills that would restore military retirement pay don’t get a hearing. He said he thought they had already made the situation better. He added that Senator McCain is concerned about the problem and is still working on it.
8. When asked how he was going to pay for infrastructure spending he agreed that more spending is necessary, but that we have to be fiscally responsible. He would support lowering corporate taxes. This would bring all the corporate money parked overseas flowing back to the United States.
9. Another caller was concerned about the possibility of turning Social Security over to Wall Street. He replied that the current program will be bankrupt unless it is reformed. The Republican legislation won’t affect retired or near retired people, and it will tag benefits to prices, not wages. However the retirement age will continue to increase.
10. He is against a special committee to investigate Trump’s Russia ties.
11. To another question about the wall, he said 750 miles of it has been funded since 2013; that the terrain won’t allow the wall to be built everywhere; and that in many areas the water shed flows north, not south. (It’s not clear if he thinks the border should be left open in those areas.) He said we also need more interior enforcement.
12. On the proposed increase in defense spending, he said he’ll support McCain. We need to spend more, budget better, and pay people properly so that the economy continues to grow.
13. He’s against a border tax. He thinks it would not be good for either side.
14. Social Security should not decide who’s mentally fit to have a gun.
15. One caller said he hoped Republican healthcare reform would keep the rule on preexisting conditions. Flake said Obama Care is not sustainable and he praised Ryan’s plan.
16. Responding to a call about School Choice, he said he advocates choice. Competition makes schools better and state control is better than federal control.
17. Senator Flake assured another caller that Gorsuch is not pro-corporate and that he will follow the law. Then he praised him for being an Originalist. He thought Gorsuch would probably be confirmed in early April.
18. A caller said we should not privatize the VA. Flake answered that he doesn’t think that’s where we’re going. He said seniors can pay for private care and be reimbursed later.
19. In response to the idea of increasing taxes for the wealthy to remedy the national debt, Flake said we need economic growth. He thought we could accomplish that with a proper tax and regulatory environment. Instead of increasing taxes for the wealthy we should reform entitlements. They are the drivers of debt and deficits. He pointed to the stock market, which he said is responding to what has been done so far. (The stock market has nothing to do with economic growth.)
Tonight’s in-person town hall is Flake’s response to a petition circulated by Change.org, which got 5,886 signatures. Although the petition requested a central location in Phoenix, the meeting will take place at the Mesa Convention Center in the East Valley. (I believe this area is predominantly Mormon). And although the petitioners asked for at least two hours, Flake scheduled one and a half hours.
The location is 201 N. Center Street, Mesa, Arizona. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Parking and lines at the door are not allowed before that time. Seating is first-come, first-served.