Since he graduated from college thirty-six years ago, Tom McClintock has done very little but run for political office. This year his hat is in the ring for the twentieth time.
The State Legislature
His career as a professional office-seeker began in 1982 when he was elected to the California Assembly from a Ventura area district. McClintock ultimately served 14 years in the Assembly — taking breaks to run losing races for the US Congress and State Controller.
Termed out of his Assembly seat in 2000, he moved up to a seat in the California Senate, which he held for eight years, taking breaks to run unsuccessfully for State Controller (once again), Governor, and Lieutenant Governor.
In 2010, McClintock, who had been a strong supporter of term limits for the state legislature, changed his mind, telling the San Jose Mercury News ….“Of all the mistakes I’ve made in public life, the one I regret most is advocating for term limits for the Legislature.” Term limits harmed the Legislature, he said.
Forced out once again by those term limits, McClintock considered three Congressional seats and a state-wide office before settling on California’s 4th Congressional District hundreds of miles from his base in Simi Valley. As one Republican insider said, “Tom McClintock’s base is in Thousand Oaks, but he wants to be suburban Sacramento’s man in Congress.”
After winning narrowly the first time in 2008, he has been reelected to Congress each term since. In all, since he was 23 years old McClintock has been elected to office fourteen times in 19 tries and only briefly held jobs outside public office. It is unclear if, during his time in the State Assembly and Senate, McClintock ever actually managed to live in the communities he was paid to represent. In 2008, when McClintock was first running for the Congressional seat he now holds, Time magazine called him a “Carpetbagger.” At that time his home was hundred of miles from Congressional District 4, and he couldn’t even vote for himself. He still can’t. Although he promised to relocate to the Sierra Foothill district he was running to represent, McClintock failed to do so. Instead, he purchased a home in suburban Elk Grove, 32 miles from the closest edge of his district, which continues to be listed as his legal address.
The Washington Years
In nearly ten years in Washington, the non-partisan Govtrack credits McClintock with only four pieces of legislation. He got one mountain peak and two post offices named, and four acres of Federal land put in trust for the Miwok Indians. Three of those laws were signed by President Obama.
His Right Wing voting record in Congress mirrors his stands in Sacramento and has earned McClintock a solid Conservative reputation, rated in the 90s by Club for Growth, Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity, in single digits by the League of Conservation Votes and the AFL-CIO, and zero by Planned Parenthood. But his commitments may also raise questions.
For example, although a vocal debt hawk for his entire career, in 2017 McClintock voted for the cut in federal taxes which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will add nearly two trillion dollars to our nation’s debt in ten years. “Concerns over the deficit are legitimate and must be addressed by spending reforms this coming year,” he said on the House floor. Independent experts say this almost certainly would mean cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Always voting consistently with the Republican party, McClintock has been a faithful supporter of President Trump, voting with his program nearly 90 percent of the time. In addition to his recent vote for the Republican Tax plan, he also voted to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act, as well as sponsoring HR 1349, which rewrites the Wilderness Act – one of our nation’s bedrock conservation laws.
Climate Change and Health Insurance
Citing concerns about spending, McClintock has voted against federal help for victims of natural disasters, including hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Further, the recent Republican Tax plan he supported includes a provision limiting the deduction for losses due to wildfire – a continual threat to rural communities in CD4.
Although such natural disasters are scientifically linked to climate change, McClintock has called California’s efforts to reduce global warming “lunacy”, saying the “radical policies” would take a “dreadful toll on [our] economy.” In fact, he was mistaken. Since he gave that speech California’s economy has grown noticeably faster than the US as a whole.
In a series of town halls more recently, McClintock dismissed questions about climate change with jokes about dinosaurs. “My position is pretty simple, and that is climate change has been going on now for 4 billion years,” he said at one. “The planet has been warming on and off since the last ice age.” In this millennium, in McClintock’s own Congressional District, the 2017 average temperature in Sacramento was 3.5 degrees above normal, and Yosemite Valley was 2.7 degrees warmer.
McClintock speaks more seriously about health care, understandable given that tens of thousands of his constituents benefit from federal health programs. More than 160,000 citizens of the district are eligible for Medicare, making it the backbone of providing medical services in the foothills. Another 55,100 residents are covered by the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion – programs which McClintock says don’t work and has voted consistently to cut or eliminate.
“I have strongly advocated that the House address this crisis in a single comprehensive bill that fully repeals Obamacare, and replaces it with a healthy, competitive market,” he said on the House floor last year. In the same speech he admitted that Congress’ own figures say ending Obamacare will cost millions of Americans (including tens of thousands of his own constituents) health coverage, but he promised a rosy future nonetheless. “As our pro-growth economic reforms cause incomes to rise and our health care reforms bring costs down, families will earn more and pay less for their health care,” he said.
The research McClintock dismissed was conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, which found that indeed repeal will mean 21 million more Americans will lose their health insurance within eight years. Thereafter, millions more will be uninsured as Medicaid is cut. The biggest losers are older Americans, and those with major health problems. Premiums for those with insurance will go down slightly, the CBO found, but largely because sick people will be excluded, deductibles will rise, and benefits will be stingy.
In a speech on the house floor in 2017, McClintock, bemoaning the failure of Congress to completely repeal Obamacare, quoted Benjamin Franklin on the need for compromise. You can’t get everything you want, McClintock said, noting that Franklin was unsatisfied with some parts of the US Constitution, but signed it anyway.
Indeed, Franklin did have reservations, but what he advised was not to surrender principle, but to be more modest. The words of Franklin from the speech that McClintock did not quote were these: “ It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.”
Many wish that Rep. McClintock would heed this part of Franklin’s advice, thereby considering the judgment and wishes of his constituents over his own biases and beliefs.