Flake is no stranger to spotlighting profligate federal spending. For years, he’s spearheaded an effort to blast out regular emails pointing to the “most egregious earmarks of the week.” With the GOP’s newly adopted earmarks moratorium, Flake is “happily retiring” the feature and pivoting to weekly exposes of wasteful executive grants. “Just because earmarks will be gone, doesn’t mean that bad spending is gone,” he warned.
In the lead up to their massive Election Day victories, Republican leaders have sought to assure voters that they’ve “learned their lesson” about abandoning fiscal responsibility. Does Flake view their decision to endorse him for a seat on a committee he’s battled for years as evidence that chastened GOP leaders have, indeed, internalized voters’ message? “I never thought I’d see this sort of support from certain people,” Flake said – referencing the earmarks ban, of which he was a lonely champion throughout much of the Bush Administration. He also expressed gratitude and optimism about his apparent elevation to the committee’s ranks. Nonetheless, he cautioned, “We [Republicans] are always on probation. On larger spending cuts and entitlement reforms, the jury is still out.”
Flake said the bottom-line metric for success is Republicans’ modest plan to roll back non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels. (Flake also signaled an openness to looking at certain defense spending cuts). “If we can’t hit the target we’ve established, people will have every right to question our seriousness.” He said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen and heard so far from incoming GOP freshmen, many of whom have little or no legislative experience. “The experience issue pales in comparison to the question of political courage; someone’s willingness to stand up on principle, and even stand up to their own party, if necessary,” he said of his soon-to-be colleagues.