As one long-time anti-Trump Republican made a speech on the Senate floor — a speech that was met with applause and a standing ovation — one member chose to stand apart from the crowd.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced plans to retire from the US Senate and the end of his current term. In doing so, he made accusations against the Republican Party and the Trump presidency. Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only Senator who didn’t stand up and applaud Flake’s anti-Trump speech, according to one Twitter post.
Sen. Flake announced Tuesday that he planned to retire from the US Senate at the end of his term, saying that he was out of step with the Republican Party in the era of Trump’s presidency. When he finished his comments, “All stood and clapped after Flake’s speech—except @RandPaul,” tweeted Andrew Desiderio, a reporter for The Daily Beast.
This surprise announcement came after more than a year of vocal criticism of the President and where he’s been taking the GOP, ending in Flake publishing a book called Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle, that criticizes both the President’s ideology and his character.
Recent polls found that Mr. Flake was trailing behind the likely Democrat Senate nominee, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), as well as other challengers, in the primary should he have sought a second term in 2018.
Sen. Flake made his surprise announcement just minutes after President Trump left the Capitol Building. “We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become used to this condition, thinking that it is just politics as usual, then heaven help us,” Mr. Flake said, according to The Washington Post.
“Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe, we must stop pretending that the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused as telling it like it is when it is actually reckless, outrageous and undignified,” he concluded.
These comments came hours after President Trump met with the Senators for a rare luncheon, where Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), another anti-Trump Republican, accused the President of “debasing” the country with his “untruths.”
Sen. Rand Paul was the only one who didn’t stand and applaud Mr. Flake’s surprise speech, seemingly feeling that there was no point in attacking the President just as tax reform comes to the table.
Sen. Paul has previously worked closely with Mr. Trump in his executive health care order, according to The Washington Examiner. Many aspects of the Executive Order took inspiration from Paul’s own proposals, such as allowing the purchasing of plans across state lines.
Sen. Flake gave an anti-Trump speech while announcing his retirement. Would you have applauded his speech or stayed sitting like Sen. Rand Paul?
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who had previously attacked the President, addressed his colleagues later on. “It’s been one of the great honors of my life to have the opportunity to serve with a man of integrity and honor and decency and commitment to not only Arizona but the United States of America. I have seen Jeff Flake stand up for what he believes in, knowing full well that there would be a political price to pay.”
As for the average conservative, Trump-supporting American, it’s unlikely that Flake’s presence on the Senate floor will be missed.