The GOP's Plan Of Action After Midterms
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Republicans are making a final push ahead of Tuesday's vote, as well. The GOP needs to win at least 39 seats to take over control of the House of Representatives. Democrats currently hold a majority.
Republican Jeff Flake represents Arizona's Sixth Congressional District, and he's on the line from Mesa, Arizona. Welcome to the program.
Representative JEFF FLAKE (Republican, Arizona): Thank you for having me on.
HANSEN: And we should point out that you are seeking re-election for your House seat against Democrat Rebecca Schneider.
Rep. FLAKE: I am.
HANSEN: Yes. If the GOP wins a majority of the House, as many expect, what are your party's top priorities?
Rep. FLAKE: Oh, I think first and foremost - and this goes well ahead of anything else - is get control of federal spending. And I think a corollary to that is repealing at least portions of Obamacare, that we simply can't afford at the federal level and certainly can't at the state level.
HANSEN: Do you expect the Republicans will try to repeal the entire health care overhaul?
Rep. FLAKE: Yes, I think we'll try. But it's unlikely that we'll be successful there. Depending on how the elections go, we may or may not have the Senate. And we certainly won't have the presidency. And so, he could veto anything that we put forward and likely would.
HANSEN: You are one of the few Republicans who support comprehensive immigration reform. And you know as well as anybody, immigration has been a very controversial issue in your home state of Arizona. Do you see hopes for immigration reform in a Republican-controlled Congress?
Rep. FLAKE: Well, they say only Nixon could go to China. Maybe only Republicans can do immigration reform. I'm hoping that's the case. It's very difficult to do anytime. And in election year, it's just impossible. So I hope that cooler heads will prevail this coming year, and that's one area that we can work with the president on.
HANSEN: John Boehner is expected to become the next speaker of the House, if the GOP takes over the chamber. What other Republicans do you expect to see in leadership positions?
Rep. FLAKE: Well, I think some of them will simply move up the ladder. Eric Cantor will likely be majority leader. The whip spot may go to Kevin McCarthy. Whether or not Mike Pence stays as conference chair, I guess is a question.
But I hope that we listen more to people like Paul Ryan, who will likely be the chairman of the Budget Committee. He's put forward a serious proposal to control debt and deficit, moving ahead. And it's about the only serious proposal out there.
HANSEN: Should the GOP take over the House chamber, for example, and as you mentioned, if the Democrats hold on to the Senate, you'll be sharing power and sharing responsibility for what might go wrong. Do you think the Republicans, if they win a sizable margin, will be more willing to compromise with the president and other Democrats?
Rep. FLAKE: Well, we hope to be able to find areas of compromise. The problem over the past couple of years has been the Democrats had such a margin - 39 seats - that, for example, with immigration reform the only piece of legislation that was put forward was one that really wasn't intended to garner Republican support.
And I think when you have divided government, and Republicans likely only controlling the House of Representatives, that lends itself to an atmosphere where the parties need to work together.
So I hope that Americans discover that divided government is sometimes pretty good government.
HANSEN: What about a divided party or point of view? And what I mean by that is, do you foresee any tensions on the Hill between establishment Republicans and politicians linked to the Tea Party?
Rep. FLAKE: Yes, that's - it's going to be difficult. It's been said that John Boehner will be riding a tiger. I think he will. This is going to be difficult and I think you'll see it manifest when we have our first vote to raise the debt limit...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Rep. FLAKE: ...and to see how the new members react on that one. I think that there is going to be some tension among kind of the old bulls and those who have been around, and have been in Congress just in an atmosphere where you really didn't have to cut spending. And we're going to have to cut and cut deeply. And so it's going to be a wild ride.
HANSEN: Congressman Jeff Flake represents Arizona's Sixth District. Thanks so much for talking to us today.
Rep. FLAKE: Hey, thanks for having me on.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.