House

Who is Patrick McHenry, the new acting Speaker of the House?

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) is serving as acting Speaker of the House, after a small group of Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a historic first for the chamber.

McHenry was declared Speaker pro tempore following the 216-210 vote to remove McCarthy on Tuesday evening.

The North Carolina Republican has served in Congress since 2005. He rose through the ranks of House GOP leadership to serve as chief deputy whip from 2014 to 2019 and became the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee in 2019.

After Republicans retook the House in the 2022 midterm elections, McHenry was elevated to chairman of the committee.

He has acted as a key ally throughout McCarthy’s brief tenure as Speaker, serving as a top negotiator amid the debt ceiling crisis earlier this year and voting in support of the last-minute stopgap funding bill that McCarthy put forward on Saturday to avert a government shutdown.

McHenry defended McCarthy’s role as Speaker on Tuesday evening, urging his Republican colleagues to reconsider voting to vacate the Speaker.

“Why would we give up a conservative working majority for better outcomes and hand the keys over to the Democrats?” McHenry said on the House floor.

Eight Republicans, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), voted to oust McCarthy in the wake of last weekend’s showdown over government funding. The stopgap measure that McCarthy put forward on Saturday, also known as a continuing resolution, garnered enough Democratic support to pass and keep the government open.

However, the move infuriated hardline Republicans, who firmly opposed a continuing resolution and sought steeper spending cuts.

While the funding showdown ultimately triggered the motion to vacate, the threat had hung over McCarthy’s head since his drawn-out Speakership battle earlier this year. After repeatedly losing votes for Speaker in early January, McCarthy agreed to lower the threshold for the motion to vacate to just one member in order to secure the position.

McHenry played an essential role, alongside Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.) and Garret Graves (R-La.), in helping McCarthy win the Speakership election in January, negotiating concessions with GOP holdouts.

Early in his career in Congress, McHenry was described as “the GOP’s attack dog-in-training” and “extremely right-wing,” according to Politico. However, former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) later noted that the North Carolina Republican “dramatically matured” after coming in as “a bomb thrower.”

McHenry faced criticism in 2011 after sparring with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a congressional hearing about the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for which Warren temporarily served as the unofficial head.

He appeared to suggest that Warren was lying when she claimed that she had only agreed to appear before the subcommittee for a certain period of time.

“You had no agreement,” he said at the time, adding, “You’re making this up, Ms. Warren.”

McHenry also stirred controversy earlier in his career, when he was accused by a veterans group of breaching operational security by posting a video that he shot during a 2008 trip to Iraq with other members of Congress.

Tags Elizabeth Warren House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy Kevin McCarthy Matt Gaetz Patrick McHenry Patrick McHenry Speaker of the House

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