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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Who is Patrick McHenry?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Patrick McHenry, a Republican representative from North Carolina, has been appointed as interim Speaker of the House while a replacement for Rep. Kevin McCarthy is decided on.

On October 3rd, Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted as Speaker of the House in a historic vote, the first ever instance of a person being removed from that position. A replacement, Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, was selected on October 25th. But before him,  North Carolina representative Patrick McHenry served as Interim Speaker while the House of Representatives cast votes on a replacement for McCarthy.

McHenry has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2005, and previously served in the N.C. house representing the 109th district. In the U.S. McHenry has served as chair of the House’s Committee on Financial Services. McHenry is a conservative and an ally of McCarthy, and has defended him against the right-wing faction that ousted him, citing his victories for the conservative agenda as House speaker

According to Politico, McHenry’s current reputation is that of a mature and more “responsible” Republican, one who sides with conservatives on the majority of issues but who is willing to side with democrats on a few issues, including climate change and the 2020 electoral college results. McHenry isn’t known for being loud or rude–he’s mostly known for his bow ties, which stands out in every picture of him you can find on the internet. But earlier in his career in the U.S. House, McHenry had a very different reputation.

When he first joined the House of Representatives in 2005, Patrick McHenry described himself as a “bomb-thrower,” according to Politico. He was much more devoted to his party then than he is now, a fierce defender of the Republican agenda, with a Roll Call columnist from 2005 calling him “the GOP’s attack dog in training”. McHenry’s transformation from passionate to moderate has been slow, but the difference between his old self and his current self is dramatic.

One 2012 incident stands out in particular, when McHenry attracted controversy after accusing Senator Elizabeth Warren of lying about an agreement they had made regarding the time of a meeting. Many outlets criticized his actions as unprofessional, including the Hickory Daily Record, the largest newspaper in McHenry’s district. McHenry, however, refused to apologize.

While McHenry’s attitude has moderated over time, and he is willing to compromise on certain issues, he is still a conservative, and takes the right-wing position on most issues in America. McHenry is opposed to abortion, illegal immigration, higher taxes and gun control. He supported former President Trump in both his 2016 and 2020 campaigns, and his views are very similar to those of Kevin McCarthy, who he wants to return as Speaker.

McHenry’s main area of responsibility in Congress is finance. He chairs the House’s Committee on Financial Services, and has made his support for small businesses with laws such as the JOBS Act and CARES Act a central part of his platform. McHenry has also been consistently critical of the progressive tax policies, advocating for and passing many tax cuts across his political career.

McHenry has expressed no interest in taking over the position of House speaker permanently, and a replacement has already been selected. After Jim Jordan was dropped as the Republican nominee on October 20th, he was succeeded by Mike Johnson, a far-right Republican from Louisiana

Johnson is no moderate, and unlike McHenry, supported Trump’s bid to overturn the results of the 2020 election. While McHenry’s policies as speaker would have been, at worst, as far to the right as McCarthy’s, Johnson’s represent the agenda of the groups pushing the Republican party further and further to the right, the radical faction that was willing to support overturning the results of a legitimate election and then to defend the former president in the wake of an attempted coup that he inspired. McHenry as speaker would have been more of the same, Johnson as speaker could be a legitimate threat to democracy.

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