Man with ALS confronts Flake on plane over tax bill vote

Greg Nash

A progressive activist who identified himself as diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) confronted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on an airplane this week over Flake’s vote on the GOP tax-reform bill.

Activist Ady Barkan, a staffer at the Center for Popular Democracy, questioned Flake on Thursday after the Arizona Republican voted in favor of the GOP tax-reform bill that passed the Senate in a late-night session last week. Videos of the 11-minute conversation were posted on Twitter.

In the videos, Barkan can be heard questioning Flake on a wide range of issues, including automatic cuts to Medicare under the GOP tax bill as well as protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients from deportation.

“This tax bill is probably going to force $400 billion in automatic Pay-go cuts,” Barkan says. “So what should I tell my son, or what should you tell my son?”


Flake can be heard in the video defending the bill, and adding that Pay-go has been triggered several times before but “never” implemented. Pay-go, which stands for “pay-as-you-go,” is a budget rule that requires tax cuts and entitlement spending to be covered by spending cuts or tax hikes.

“It will likely trigger Pay-go,” Flake responded. “Pay-go has been triggered several times by the deficit or by tax cuts. But it’s never been implemented.”

“Both Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.] and Paul Ryan [R-Wis.] have already issued statements saying that they are not going to implement Pay-go, or that they’re going to waive Pay-go,” he added.

After the exchange was posted on Twitter, Flake responded in a tweet saying that he valued Barkan’s “courage and knowledgeable advocacy” despite their disagreements.

“I enjoyed the conversation, Ady. We won’t always agree, by I admire your courage and knowledgeable advocacy,” the senator said.

Flake previously expressed doubts about the funding for the tax bill before eventually backing the plan in November. The Arizona deficit hawk told reporters last month that to win his support, the bill couldn’t cause a major increase to America’s debt.

“I remain concerned over how the current tax-reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt by opting for short-term fixes while ignoring long-term problems for taxpayers and the economy,” Flake said at the time. “We must achieve real tax reform crafted in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Tags Arizona Jeff Flake Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan PAYGO Senate Tax reform

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