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A Conservative Who Thinks the Right’s Gone Too Far

McClintock talks about leaving the Freedom Caucus.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
McClintock talks about leaving the Freedom Caucus.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In becoming the first Republican to drop out of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Tom McClintock sent a message to his now-former HFC colleagues saying he believes their organization has been a negative force.  

On Wednesday, McClintock delivered a blistering letter  to House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan — and the press — that, in effect, said the HFC has “undermined” the House’s ability to advance conservative principles. McClintock has made no secret of his opposition to a number of HFC tactics, including the HFC’s opposition to a three-week spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security, HFC members voting against a rule for trade legislation, HFC members threatening to vote down a rule for an Iran disapproval resolution, and, most recently, HFC members promising opposition to any spending bill that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood.  

When CQ Roll Call caught up with McClintock on Friday, the California Republican had no regrets about quitting the conservative group, and he expressed no qualms that his contrarian point of view would no longer be heard.  

“I don’t think they heard it when I was voicing it, hence my resignation,” McClintock said, continuing that it was a shock to no one in the HFC that he was discontent. (“I said nothing in that letter that I haven’t been saying in every meeting of that group for the last nine months.”)  

Other HFC members have previously told CQ Roll Call that McClintock was usually the one fighting against their strategies. One member even said in July that he didn’t feel comfortable discussing potential Boehner coup maneuvers because he thought McClintock would report it back to fellow California Republican, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.  

For what it’s worth, on Friday, McClintock said that while he couldn’t talk about specific conversations regarding the House Freedom Caucus and whether there were efforts to take down Boehner, that matter didn’t factor into his resignation. “What I can tell you is that my resignation had nothing to do with the speakership issue,” he said.  

On that issue, McClintock seems resolute in the belief that the House Republican Conference has spoken and that John A. Boehner shouldn’t have to fend off attacks from his own members.  

“The Republican Conference is responsible for determining the operation of that House, its leaders, its agenda, and its rules,” he said. “And I believe that every member for the Republican Conference is honor-bound to respect the wishes of the majority of that conference. I think several of our members have fallen short of the responsibility.”  

Overall, McClintock just seemed to think the Freedom Caucus was not good for the conference — “I feel that its tactics have become counterproductive to enacting conservative policy” — and he again expressed frustration over the HFC blocking a vote on an Iran disapproval resolution.  

“I think it was a tragedy that the House of Representatives did not take up and vote on a resolution of disapproval, which, under the Corker Act, is the only legally binding action that we can take,” McClintock said. “And a large part of the blame for that rests with the House Freedom Caucus.”  

Freedom Caucus members threatened to vote down the rule for the disapproval resolution because they believed President Barack Obama had not complied with the Iran nuclear review act (the Corker Act) because the president had not given Congress all the relevant material on the Iran deal. Specifically, Republicans pointed to a “side deal” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which, they said, prevents the 60-day clock from ever starting on Congress to approve or disapprove of the agreement. (The matter looks headed for a court.)  

As for why he would choose to so publicly rail against the HFC, why he wouldn’t just quietly resign, McClintock said he felt it was his responsibility to tell the public why he was quitting.  

“A decent respect to the opinion of mankind requires that they state the reasons that compel them to the separation,” McClintock said, roughly quoting the Declaration of Independence.  

When McClintock got a little more colloquial about the dissolution of his HFC political bands — at least as colloquial as Tom McClintock gets — he said, “I thought it was important to set forth the reasons that required me to resign.”  

It doesn’t sound as if McClintock will miss the group, or that the group will miss McClintock.

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