A nonprofit advocacy group loyal to Donald Trump is spending money to praise two of the president’s most prominent Republican adversaries: Jeff Flake and John McCain.
America First Policies will air TV ads to thank the two Arizona senators, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, for supporting the tax overhaul bill that cleared the Senate last week.
The legislation is a key agenda item for the White House and GOP-controlled Congress. Full approval by the end of the year would give Trump his first major legislative win.
"We wanted to thank Senators McCain, Flake, and Collins for putting politics aside and doing the right thing for the people of Arizona and Maine — and the country,” America First President Brian O. Walsh said. "Their vote for the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act will pave the way for the largest tax cut in decades."
A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that America First will spend roughly $500,000 on the ad campaign.
The move is a surprise olive branch from Trump's allies. Flake has been highly critical of Trump’s politics and demeanor and announced in October that he would not seek reelection next year. (On Tuesday, though, he talked trade with Trump during lunch at the White House.)
“The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is a historic and, I believe, profoundly misguided,” Flake said from the Senate floor when announcing his retirement.
Polls had shown Flake facing a tough race if he chose to seek another term. Trump and his former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, had made supportive overtures to other Republicans interested in a primary challenge.
McCain also has been an object of Trump’s ire. In September, his "no" vote helped sink a Trump-backed measure to overhaul Obamacare. And during last year's presidential campaign, Trump diminished McCain's Vietnam War heroics, saying he liked "people who weren't captured."
Like Flake and McCain, Collins is one of her party’s more independent-minded senators. But she also recently announced she would not run for governor of Maine next year and is up for reelection in 2020 in a state where Trump hasn't done poorly.