By Lauren French
California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock announced Wednesday he was resigning from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, saying the group’s hardball tactics had undermined conservative goals rather than advancing them.
The departure comes as the group is locked in a heated battle with Republican leaders about the direction of the party and is threatening to attempt to strip Rep. John Boehner of his speakership.
McClintock said frustration with the caucus’ forceful tactics on contentious issues brought about his resignation.
“When the House Freedom Caucus formed in January, I fervently hoped that it would provide responsible and effective leadership to advance conservative principles in the House of Representatives…[but] I believe the tactics the HFC has employed have repeatedly undermined the House’s ability to advance them,” he wrote in a letter to Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.)
McClintock added, “I feel that the HFC’s many missteps have made it counterproductive to its stated goals and I no longer wish to be associated with it.”
It is the first public break from the group, which has prompted a wide internal debate among GOP lawmakers over its tactics. The group was formed in January with the intent for pushing the Republican leadership team to the right.
But the departure comes at a time when the caucus is in the spotlight. A leading member of the group, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, put forward a measure earlier this year to oust Boehner from the speaker’s chair. The move, called a motion to vacate, has not been acted upon but members of the Freedom Caucus have said they are closely watching how Boehner acts during the government shutdown debate.
However, unlike other members of the caucus, McClintock has never voted to unseat Boehner during two earlier rebellions against the Ohio Republican. And McClintock was not a founding member of the conservative group and has never been part of the core group of 10-or-so Republicans who hold sway within the Freedom Caucus. He also served with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the California Assembly in the 2000s.
McClintock cited the battle over funding the Department of Homeland Security, Trade Promotion Authority and the Iran nuclear agreement as examples where the House Freedom Caucus stopped what McClintock argued was better legislation from going forward and in turn gave President Barack Obama legislative victories.
“The House Freedom Caucus leadership threatened to combine with House Democrats to defeat the [Iran resolution,] forcing the House leadership to abandon it in favor of a symbolic and legally meaningless vote,” McClintock wrote.
McClintock has a solidly conservative reputation from his days as a state senator in California. He was elected to Congress in 2009.
He added that plans for the conservative caucus to vote against any government funding bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood were also counterproductive.
“A common theme through each of these incidents is a willingness – indeed, an eagerness – to strip the House Republican majority of its ability to set the House agenda by combining with House Democrats on procedural motions,” he wrote. “As a result, it has thwarted vital conservative policy objectives and unwittingly become Nancy Pelosi’s tactical ally.”
Jordan expressed his respect for McClintock in a statement.
“Tom is a principled conservative and a valuable member of the House Republican Conference,” Jordan said. “The House Freedom Caucus looks forward to continuing to work with him, as well as every one of our colleagues, to give a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them.”