Sen. Jeff Flake is taking his leave of Congress with one last warning about Russian aggression and a breakdown in American political norms.
The Arizona Republican who became the face of ‘conservative’ resistance to President Trump did not mention him in a farewell speech from the Senate floor, but it was clear the forces that helped elect Mr. Trump still trouble Mr. Flake.
“Let us recognize from this place here today that the shadow of tyranny is once again enveloping parts of the globe. And let us recognize as authoritarianism reasserts itself in country after country that we are by no means immune,” the senator said.
With Congress looking to close up shop for the year, lawmakers who lost their elections or, in the case of Mr. Flake, who are retiring, are delivering farewell speeches thanking their staff and offering lessons learned to colleagues.
Mr. Flake said he’s been a student of liberty and democracy during periods living abroad, and said he’s still optimistic, even though he sees “threats to our democracy from within and without.”
“We of course are testing the institutions of American liberty in ways that none of us likely ever imagined we would – and in ways that we never should again,” said Mr. Flake.
He served six terms as a House member, breaking a term-limits pledge halfway through to continue his crusade against earmark spending at a time when Republicans were addicted to pork-barrel politics.
He was also one of the foremost voices within the GOP pushing for legalization of illegal immigrants, and for better economic relations with Cuba.
In 2012 he ran for a Senate seat and won — but voters soured on him as he clashed with Mr. Trump, and he decided not to seek a second term.
His seat was won last month by a Democrat.
Colleagues praised him Thursday as someone willing to battle his own party, particularly on immigration.
Mr. Flake’s words to them were more diagnosis of ailments than recipe for recovery, though he said he took comfort from a trip six years ago, as a new senator, to view some of the founding documents.
“It is important to remember that we have seen tumult and trial before, and it is the genius of the architects of our liberty that we can withstand it all and emerge stronger for it,” he said.
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