McConnell, McCain praise Flake after blistering anti-Trump retirement speech

McConnell, McCain praise Flake after blistering anti-Trump retirement speech
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 Overnight Defense: Fears rise over Trump-Putin summit | McCain presses Trump to hold Putin 'accountable' for hacking | Pentagon does damage control after NATO meet MORE (R-Ariz.) praised Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Lawmakers demand answers from Mnuchin on tariffs | Fed chief lays out stakes of Trump trade war | Consumer prices rise at highest rate in six years | Feds to appeal AT&T merger ruling MORE (R-Ariz.) on the floor of the Senate Tuesday after Flake announced in a blistering speech that he would not seek reelection because of his frustration and alarm over President Trump's behavior. 

“On behalf of myself and I think many of my colleagues, we've just witnessed a speech from a very fine man, a man who clearly brings high principles to the office every day and does what he believes is in the interest of Arizona and the country,” McConnell said.

The majority leader said he was grateful Flake would be around through 2018 because Republicans in the Senate “have big things to try to accomplish.”

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Flake’s stunning speech on the Senate floor came just moments after the Senate Republican Conference left a luncheon on Capitol Hill that Trump attended as part of an effort to get everyone on the same page about tax reform.

It could be the last chance Republicans have to pass major legislation during Trump’s first year in office, but instead Washington's focus Tuesday was on the fiery feuds emerging among GOP lawmakers.

It began when Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOvernight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report McConnell: We may 'be in the early stages' of a trade war MORE (R-Tenn.) renewed his fight with Trump, taking to the airwaves ahead of the meeting on Capitol Hill to accuse the president of being a liar and of “debasing” the nation.

Flake followed with his surprise announcement that he would retire at the end of this Congress. In his subsequent Senate floor speech, Flake said he could no longer “condone” the president’s behavior.

"We must never adjust to the coarseness of our dialogue with the tone set up at the top,” Flake said. “We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country, the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations — most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing to whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve."

Flake faced a tough primary challenge in 2018 from a pro-Trump candidate Kelli Ward, who is backed by a group with close ties to former White House strategist Stephen Bannon. Polls showed he faced an uphill climb to reelection.

McCain followed McConnell on the Senate floor to praise his home-state colleague, a first-term senator.

“I have seen Jeff Flake stand up for what he believes in knowing full well that there would be a political price to pay,” McCain said. “I have seen him stand up for his family. I've seen him stand up for his forbearers.”

“We look all of us at some point in our time that we have spent here, whether it be short or whether it be long, we look back and we think about what we could have done, what we should have done, what we might have done and the mistakes we made and the things we're proud of,” McCain continued. “Well, when the Flake service to this country is reviewed, it will be one of honor, of brilliance and patriotism and love of country, and I thank you, and God bless you and your family.”