Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake is catching flak from conservatives for missing a key vote Friday on a “cap-and-trade” climate-change bill that is strongly opposed by the GOP.
Flake also opposed the bill but said he had to skip the vote to be with his daughter, who was competing in the 2009 Junior Miss pageant in Mobile, Ala.
“Obviously it was a tough decision to miss voting against the cap-and-trade bill,” the District 6 representative said in a statement. “But I’ve let my daughter down enough over the years, and I felt I just couldn’t let her down again.”
The measure before the House of Representatives set up an auction system in which energy users such as electric utilities would buy and sell credits to release global-warming gases into the atmosphere. The intent is to create market incentives for polluters to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, but critics say it constitutes a massive tax that will burden energy users for years to come.
The bill passed by a slim 219-212 margin and now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain.
Critics of the measure said Flake should have been willing to miss his daughter’s pageant to vote against the bill, which they believe will have a drastically negative impact on the nation’s future.
For example, in an e-mail message to the Tribune, Gilbert resident David Land said he was “greatly disturbed” that Flake was a no-show “on one of the most important votes to ever come down the pike. … Jeff Flake was hired by the citizens of this state to represent them in important government matters, which he failed to do. … Our congressman decided to let this opportunity to help stop this monstrous tax go by without even a vote.”
Another open letter to Flake, which was e-mailed to the Tribune from Kris Thompson, a resident of York, S.C., said “the only acceptable excuse for missing this critical vote is serious illness or a death in your family. Our servicemen miss the births of their children, Little League home runs, dance recitals, scholarship competitions, graduations and funerals while putting their lives on the line so you can have the freedom to take the day off. … The American people don’t ask much. Just do your job.”
In an interview Monday, Flake said he understood the criticism, but “in the nine years I’ve been in this job I have let my family down a lot. I knew that would come with the job, but my daughter was representing Arizona. She is going away to school in the fall. I felt I couldn’t not be there for her.”
He added his daughter, Alexis, had been working all of her life to prepare for the pageant, and she won several scholarships for her efforts.
Still, he said “I hated to miss it (the Friday vote). I feel it was a bad vote to miss.”
Flake said the bill may not get through the Senate. If it does, the House of Representatives will have to approve it again, which will give him another chance to vote against it, he said.