EDITORIAL: Defenders of a fool's errand should be held accountable

In the end, 144 members of Congress, all of them Republicans, voted against the deal that reopened the hobbled federal government, and avoided the debacle that would have come if the nation defaulted on its debt.

Reps. Doug LaMalfa, Republican from Richvale, Rep. Tom McClintock, Republican from Elk Grove, and Jeff Denham, Republican from Turlock, cast extremist votes. Central Valley voters should remember come November 2014.

Shutdown advocates had no strategy for victory. Their stated goal -- persuading President Barack Obama to capitulate by rolling back his Affordable Care Act -- failed. They ended up in ignominious defeat, with their party's poll numbers abysmal.

Several Republicans did act responsibly by voting to end the 16-day shutdown. They include House Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, David Valadao of Hanford and Devin Nunes of Tulare. Nunes stands out for standing up to the radicals and publicly citing the futility of their fool's errand.

Valadao, a moderate, might face a tough challenge in 2014. There are 30,000 more Democrats than Republicans in his district; 28% of the residents under 65 lack health insurance, 26th worst in the nation.

Denham, the most surprising shutdown supporter, had tacked moderate lately, calling for compromise on immigration and on a farm bill. After voting against the deal, however, anti-government conservatives went out of their way to praise him.

Democratic voters in Denham's district outnumber Republicans by about 4,000, and 17.9% of residents under 65 lack health insurance. Also in Denham's favor, his likely challenger, Michael Eggman, had a mere $147,145 in the bank at the end of September. Denham had $1.13 million in his campaign chest.

McClintock's demagoguery during the shutdown warrants special mention. In McClintock's upside down world view, the shutdown was all Obama's fault. In a floor speech, McClintock alleged that Obama "would willfully act to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States unless the Congress acquiesces to all of his demands, at least as long as he sees political advantage in doing so."

McClintock's vote was in character. During his 22 years in the California Legislature, McClintock never was counted on to be an aye vote for budget deals, and he picked fights with Republicans Gov. George Deukmejian in the 1980s and Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1990s; they weren't pure enough for him.

Games played by McClintock and his allies in Washington do further damage to the California Republican Party. Republican registration in California has fallen to 28.9%. The party that produced Ronald Reagan is a threatened species now that it has become the party of McClintock, LaMalfa and, surprisingly, Denham.