Never one to build bridges, Rep. Tom McClintock has spent the better part of 30 years in office deriding the government that gives him his paycheck.
But as he showed last week, his political machine of one has gained compatriots among the shrunken but more conservative band of Republicans representing California in the House. That doesn't bode well for California as it tries to get back some of the money it sends to Washington, and certainly not for the Sierra district McClintock represents.
McClintock wasn't among the hard-liners who openly challenged House Speaker John Boehner's leadership when the new Congress convened last week. But he did join several of them for a press event shortly after the November election in Washington, D.C., offering his election analysis and prescription for the Republican Party.
No matter that Barack Obama had won re-election and Democrats gained Senate and House seats. Seeing no need to soften his rigid views, McClintock told reporters that Republicans hold the second-largest majority since World War II.
"According to exit polls, the American people agree with the positions of the Republican Party and heartily disagree with the positions of the Democratic Party," McClintock said, as if in a parallel political universe.
His prescription for the GOP: "We need to wipe our noses, pull up our socks and get back into the game." For Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Raul Labrador of Idaho, who led the postelection panel, getting back into the game meant challenging Boehner's speakership. For McClintock, it meant voting "no" on the legislation that averted falling off what in Washington speak was called the "fiscal cliff." In California's 53-seat delegation, McClintock is one of 15 Republicans, down by four from last year. He was one of the seven California Republicans who voted against the fiscal cliff legislation. Each remains in Congress.
Of the 11 California Republicans who voted for the bill, six didn't seek re-election or were voted out of office in November, making their votes on HR 8 the last ones of their time in Congress.
Not that the departing members were lefties. Rep. Dan Lungren, the Gold River Republican who was voted out this fall, was no liberal. But unlike McClintock, Lungren and the others sometimes would compromise, as they showed by siding with Boehner and Democrats in last week's vote.
McClintock, who didn't return my call, explained his "no" vote in a statement: "Taxes will now increase on those individuals who earn over $400,000 per year, a great victory for the president's eat-the-rich ideological crusade. But a lot of those wealthy folks aren't even folks: they're 850,000 struggling small businesses." Knowing that McClintock likes numbers, here are a few others, courtesy of The Bee's expert numbers cruncher, Phillip Reese. The percentage of households in McClintock's congressional district earning more than $200,000 was 5.9 percent in 2011 -- a full point below the statewide percentage of 6.9 percent.
In essence, McClintock voted against the interests of his constituents who might benefit from provisions of the bill such as the earned income tax credit or the extension of unemployment benefits.
The legislation raises taxes on couples earning $450,000 or more. But only 2 percent of all taxpayers are in that rarified category. The bill locks in lower rates set by former President George W. Bush for 98 percent of the taxpayers, the bulk of the households in McClintock's district.