The Role and Background of Temporary House Speaker Patrick McHenry

After weeks of disagreement and uncertainty, the House is contemplating the appointment of Acting Speaker Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) as the temporary House speaker. This decision holds significant importance as it could pave the way for the House to pass essential legislation, especially with the looming November 17 deadline to avert a government shutdown.

The Ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy:
The recent historic ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership triggered a heated race for his permanent replacement. Notably, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) withdrew from the race last week due to a failure to secure enough support. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) then vied for the position but faced defeat both times. Jordan subsequently announced his suspension of the speaker bid and is expected to support the temporary empowerment of McHenry.

Patrick McHenry’s Background:
Patrick McHenry, aged 47, is currently in his 10th term as a member of the House, initially elected in 2004. He represents a reliably Republican district encompassing parts of central and western North Carolina. Born and raised in North Carolina, McHenry holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Belmont Abbey College. Before entering Congress, he served in the North Carolina state House of Representatives and worked as a special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Labor during the Bush administration. His wife, Giulia McHenry, holds a prominent position as the head of the Office of Economics and Analytics at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The couple has three children.

McHenry’s Role in the House GOP:
Upon assuming the position of speaker earlier this year, McCarthy outlined a list of potential successors, with McHenry at the top. McHenry was a close ally of McCarthy, aiding him in securing his speakership and negotiating key deals, including the debt limit agreement with President Biden. Currently, McHenry chairs the House Financial Services Committee and previously held a leadership role as chief deputy whip, playing a crucial role in passing former President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Notably, McHenry has a long-standing interest in cryptocurrencies and financial technologies, even sponsoring legislation aimed at establishing a statutory framework for digital asset regulation. His role as interim speaker represents his most high-profile position to date in the House.

In contrast to Scalise, Jordan, and McCarthy, McHenry was one of the Republicans who voted to certify the 2020 presidential election in favor of Biden. He has expressed his support for Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Empowering McHenry as Temporary Speaker:
To grant McHenry expanded powers as an interim speaker, the House must pass a resolution, allowing him to take actions such as advancing funding legislation. Discussions are underway among centrist Republicans and Democrats to pass a short-term measure granting McHenry these additional powers. Notably, in terms of House operations, there is “essentially no difference” between a speaker and an empowered short-term speaker, as noted by Punchbowl News.

However, questions remain regarding whether a temporary speaker would be in line for the presidency or receive specific high-level intelligence briefings.

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