Rep. Patrick McHenry, fresh off a brutal three-week stint as caretaker speaker, revealed Thursday how exasperating the episode was and sounded less than confident about the House GOP’s ability to maintain its newfound unity: “We’ll see.”
The North Carolina Republican dished to reporters a day after he relinquished the gavel to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) — and also quietly announced his own reelection campaign for an 11th term. McHenry was a top deputy to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy but said, “I have not talked to Speaker Johnson at all.”
“Kevin duct-taped the conference together pretty well for 10 months,” McHenry said at the Capitol. “The last three weeks made it look easy in comparison.”
McHenry revealed what he was thinking in the moments after he became acting speaker pro tempore and gave the gavel bang heard around the world: “Pure anger.”
McHenry said he did some “light research” about how to do the job two weeks out from McCarthy’s ouster, “and then a whole lot more as it got closer.”
He and McCarthy had not discussed how he would approach the role, McHenry said, “because we didn’t think it would take three weeks.”
McHenry described an attempt to stay above the fray as he held the House together. He said he rejected multiple requests by Republicans and Democrats for him to act on legislation.
“I was focused on my role and being a facilitator and a steward of the office,” McHenry said. “Less caught up in candidacies and much more focused on making sure we had a transition.”
Can Republicans stay united going forward?
“We’re all going to see it together,” he said. “We’re all going to see it live.”
He said Republicans and Democrats have to come together as the House turns to appropriations legislation and responding to the wars in Israel and Ukraine.
“We have a world on fire,” McHenry said. “That has to be wrestled with, and there’s no getting around it.”
McHenry said he’s turning back to his work as chair of the House Financial Services Committee. His top priorities include passing a pair of bills that would overhaul how the U.S. regulates cryptocurrency.
“I’ve got a stack of policy that I want to get into end-of-year packages,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on.”
McHenry announced his reelection late Wednesday but he’ll be term-limited as the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee in 2025. He was mum on whether he’d seek a waiver to get around the GOP rule.
“I’m not prepared to talk about it,” McHenry said. “Let me have at least a little comedown off the speaker pro tem thing.”