Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) boarded a plane leaving Washington, D.C. on Thursday, less than a week after voting for a tax bill that could result in devastating cuts to disability programs.
Ady Barkan, a 33-year-old father living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), boarded the same flight after spending several days protesting the very legislation Flake helped ram through the Senate.
Barkan, who could be one of the millions of Americans severely harmed by the bill, wanted an explanation.
Approaching Flake on the Thursday night flight to Arizona, Barkan demanded to know how the senator who in October condemned President Donald Trump for his “flagrant disregard of truth and decency” could proceed, just weeks later, to vote for a bill that may trigger life-threatening cuts to programs that children, the elderly, and the disabled depend upon for survival.
“Mick Mulvaney of the Office of Management and Budget is individually responsible for choosing and implementing those cuts,” Barkan told Flake. “He thinks people on disability are just slackers, so what happens? What should I tell my son or what should you tell my son if you pass this bill and he cuts funding for disability and I can’t get a ventilator?”
ALS, Barkan explained to Flake, “has a life expectancy of three to four years, no treatment, no cure.” As the condition progresses, Barkan’s medical bills will soar, and he will continue to need additional assistance to stay alive. The GOP tax plan could deprive him of these necessities.
After Flake commended him for being “very up on everything,” Barkan responded: “My life depends on it. For the rest of your life, you will be proud if you vote this bill down. You will be proud on your deathbed, I promise you.”
“You can save my life. Please,” Barkan concluded. “Please remember this conversation.”
Much of Barkan’s conversation with Flake was captured on video and posted on social media. Here is the 8-clip series of the interaction, in order: