Leader McConnell Pays Tribute to Senator Jeff Flake
'As part of this majority, on behalf of the people of Arizona, Sen. Flake gave his vote to pass historic tax cuts and tax reform for the American people. And to enact major regulatory reforms. And to pass bipartisan achievements on every subject from the opioid crisis to caring for our veterans… So we bid farewell to our colleague. We thank him for his service. And we wish him and his family much happiness in the next chapters they’ll be writing together.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of friend and colleague, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ):
“I’d like close by paying tribute to another member of this body whose retirement from the Senate is fast approaching. This particular Senator, in his own words, grew up ‘on a dry, dusty ranch in northern Arizona.’ You might be surprised at that description if you’d known only the name of his hometown -- ‘Snowflake.’
“But this Navajo County town of a couple of thousand residents wasn’t named for its meteorology. It was named for its founding families. It was set up back in 1878 by two wagon-train pioneers: Mr. Snow and —that’s right—Mr. Flake. It would be still thirty-four years until Arizona became the 48th state. And a hundred and thirty-four years later, that Mormon pioneer’s great-great-grandson would be elected to the United States Senate.
“Jeff Flake is the son of cattle ranchers -- so he learned all about ‘ear-marking’ from an early age. Back when Jeff was serving in the House, he explained in an op-ed that back on the ranch, ’earmarking’ was an unsavory way to brand your cattle. Apparently the practice involves a pocket knife.
“Well, Jeff moved on from that cattle pen. He wound up leading a statewide think-tank. Then he won election to the House. By the time he arrived here in Washington – filled with equal parts fiery resolve and small-town collegiality – ‘earmarks’ had come to mean something very different to him. But as his House colleagues would soon find out, he found the new meaning just as unappealing.
“Jeff’s take on fiscal responsibility and good government ruffled some feathers over in the House. But his star kept rising. He didn’t seem to mind that lonely feeling that we’ve all known here in Washington, from time to time – the occasional sense that you’ve wound up on a bit of an island. I mean, Jeff really didn’t mind this feeling. This is not a political metaphor, by the way. It’s literally one of the man’s hobbies.
“Starting back in 2009, and several times since, our colleague has decided that a ‘dream vacation’ means a rugged survival trip where he’s marooned on a remote island with just a couple of tools. In one eloquent reflection, Jeff described this predilection as, quote, ‘a long bout of “Crusoe envy.”’ That first time, he traveled alone. To pass the time, there were the standard activities. Dodging sharks, spearfishing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, starting fires with coconut husks and a magnifying glass, befriending the hermit crabs. You know -- typical tourist fare.
“In fairness to our friend, maybe a solo getaway has a special appeal to anyone who grew up as one of eleven children. Or, for that matter, I can see why it might tempt a member of the House. But apparently the appeal was at least somewhat broader than the alone time. Because, on subsequent trips, Jeff brought company. A few years ago, he talked our colleague Martin Heinrich into coming along on one of these adventures. It was just the two of them – and some TV cameras. This was primetime stuff. The network called the show ‘Rival Survival.’ That title actually reminds me of something Jeff said to his former colleagues in the House in his farewell speech, while he was preparing to come over here. He said that coming to the Senate would be like entering – quote – ‘enemy territory.’
“That’s a funny phrase: ‘Enemy territory.’ It’s funny because vitriol and hostility are so precisely not how Senator Jeff Flake will be remembered. Instead, there have been warm and genuine friendships with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. And shared work on policy accomplishments that have already made a difference for millions of Americans.
“Jeff has cast votes for landmark accomplishments that have tangibly made life better for middle-class families in his home state and across the nation. We don’t have enough time here to name them all. As part of this majority, on behalf of the people of Arizona, Sen. Flake gave his vote to pass historic tax cuts and tax reform for the American people. And to enact major regulatory reforms. And to pass bipartisan achievements on every subject from the opioid crisis to caring for our veterans.
“So Jeff has achieved much in this high office. He’s had a hand in numerous consequential policy victories. A few years back, he was even named by ‘The Hill’ newspaper as the #1 most beautiful person on Capitol Hill. Talk about an achievement that few of us could even aspire to. But seriously -- I think we all know that nothing Jeff has done in these hallways will rank as his proudest accomplishment. That has to be persuading Cheryl to marry him – and the beautiful family they’ve built together. Five kids: Alexis, Austin, Tanner, Ryan, and Dallin. And now grandchildren.
“Almost a decade ago, after his very first island adventure, Jeff wrote, quote, ‘I’ll never see a sunset as peaceful as [the ones] I saw there.’ Well, I’m not so sure. I suspect that when Jeff’s back home, with his lovely family by his side -- well, with company like that, I suspect the Arizona sunsets will give those Pacific nights a run for their money after all. So we bid farewell to our colleague. We thank him for his service. And we wish him and his family much happiness in the next chapters they’ll be writing together.”
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