In a surprising turn of events, Senate Republicans have expressed their openness to expanding the powers of Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) as Speaker pro tempore to address the ongoing chaos within the House of Representatives. This development comes as the turmoil continues to escalate within the House Republican conference.
Senator John Thune (S.D.), the Senate Republican Whip, has signaled his support for the idea, told The Hill that McHenry “might be a landing place” to allow the House to resume its essential legislative business. Thune praised McHenry’s pragmatic and solution-oriented approach, emphasizing the importance of governance in the current political climate.
Thune further added, “He’s a smart guy. He kind of knows how to navigate the House, and I hope that he can figure out a path forward that would avoid [a government shutdown].”
A Temporary Solution with Bipartisan Backing
Some conservatives who have previously endorsed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as the next Speaker of the House have also shown support for McHenry’s expanded role, but with a key distinction. They view this as a temporary measure to enable the House to function as a governing body.
The ongoing turmoil in the House Republican conference has added momentum to the idea of McHenry temporarily assuming the role. Jordan, who was the GOP Speaker nominee, began to lose support as several Republicans withdrew their backing on the second ballot, following 20 House Republicans opposing him on the first vote.
Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) have introduced a proposal to grant McHenry, the current chair of the House Financial Services Committee, additional powers to hold the role through at least Thanksgiving, as government funding is set to expire on November 17.
Talks are also underway regarding an aid package for Israel and Ukraine, which may encompass other critical GOP issues such as border security and Taiwan.
Does McHenry Want The Job?
Despite the growing support for McHenry’s temporary expanded role, questions remain about whether he desires the top position, even on a temporary basis. Earlier this year, McHenry chose to forgo a bid for House leadership, opting to become the chairman of the Financial Services Committee instead of running for House majority whip.
Colleagues who know McHenry well indicate that he has no ambitions for the Speaker’s position.
Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has explained that while McHenry would provide stability during tumultuous times, he has no long-term interest in the role. McHenry reaffirmed this sentiment in a recent CNN interview, saying, “The Speakership is not something I’m seeking.”
Who Is McHenry?
Patrick McHenry, a 10-term lawmaker representing western North Carolina, has experienced a significant evolution in his political career. He initially entered Congress as a conservative provocateur and has more recently transitioned into an inside player and a key ally to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
McHenry’s voting record reflects his commitment to governing and bipartisanship. He voted to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral win, a stance that differentiates him from some of the top contenders for the speakership.
The idea of McHenry serving temporarily as Speaker has gained momentum, with Senate Republicans and even some House Democrats showing support. As the House grapples with leadership challenges, government funding deadlines, and pressing international issues, the proposal to grant McHenry expanded powers aims to restore order and allow Congress to address critical matters.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.