Flake - along with fellow retiring Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) - initially withheld votes to open Senate debate on the House-passed bill that includes $5B for a border wall. After they - along with Democrat Doug Jones (D-AL) - opened debate, that allowed Flake to apparently conduct some shuttle diplomacy on a compromise that could both pass the Senate and gain both House and presidential approval.
Here is how Politico describes it, after noting that Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer were barely speaking Friday morning:
In fact, things were so bad and GOP senators so disgusted with the state of play that two of them, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), couldn’t be convinced to even open debate on a doomed House-passed bill that delivered $5 billion for the border wall. The vote stayed open for more than five hours as Perdue and Gardner backchanneled with the administration, and as Schumer spoke to Trump officials and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Eventually, Flake, Corker and Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) voted to move forward on the bill and allow leaders to keep talking. Seemingly minor, the procedural move makes it possible for the Senate to act as quickly as a deal can be struck.
“Mitch certainly doesn’t want to put us out voting on something that the president has not agreed to. The key is that the president has to agree that he will [sign] this,” Flake said.
Flake met with Corker, then with Schumer, McConnell, and finally the two leaders together to move the Senate’s funding effort forward. Yet while that procedural fracas was playing out, Republicans were frantically trying to come up with something they could put on the floor.
The shuttle diplomacy continued throughout the day.
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