North Carolina Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry has served as interim speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives since Oct. 3 after former speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, was ousted. Given the failed attempts of fellow Reps. Steve Scalise, R- LA, and Jim Jordan, R-OH, to lock up a vote as the next speaker, how likely is it that McHenry will be given extended powers?
Andy Taylor, professor of Political Science at N.C. State University told Carolina Journal in a phone interview last week, before the third vote for Jordan failed that it was increasingly likely. Since then, many House Republicans, with some reports including McHenry, have rejected that idea.
Texas Republican Reps. Chip Roy and Pat Fallon told reporters Thursday, “Oh, Hell no. Hades no.”
But it’s a new week with new possibilities. Nine new candidates have joined the race for the speakership: Majority Whip Tom Emmer, MN; GOP Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson, LA; Jack Bergman, MI; Byron Donalds, FL; Kevin Hern, OK; Dan Meuser, PA; Gary Palmer, AL; Austin Scott, GA, and Pete Session, TX. Reports say Emmer is the favorite out of the group.
Even so, Taylor said Monday in an emailed statement to CJ, don’t count out McHenry just yet.
“With nine candidates, even if Emmer is the favorite, there are significant fissures in the Republican conference, and the speakership might end up being so compromised that even if one person emerges unscathed, it might not be worth claiming,” he said. “McHenry may not end up as speaker, but giving him expanded powers as interim still seems like a strong alternative at this stage, especially given the crises the country appears to be facing.”
Before last week, many on both sides of the aisle were discussing the possibility of giving McHenry extended powers, including Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, who talked about a plan that would give him the power to run the House floor through Jan. 3. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-PA, introduced a resolution that would keep McHenry in power until Nov. 17, the date when the current stopgap spending measure expires. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ, was among a group of Democrats that would give McHenry expanded power in 15-day increments that would allow him to bring specific legislation to the floor, like aid to Ukraine and Israel and legislation to avoid a government shutdown.
Taylor said something has to give and that Republicans would be loathed by their party faithful if they end up with a Democratic speaker.
“It’s clear that there are increasing pressures for the Congress to do something, which means the House has to do something,” he said. “It’s interesting that there are going to be pressures from all quarters. There is the desire, particularly among Democrats pushed by the (Biden) Administration, for increased aid to Ukraine, a large majority of members of both parties would like to see some aid to Israel in response to the attack by Hamas, and I think a lot of, obviously, Democrats. But I think a significant number of Republicans would want to make sure that when the continuing resolution ends in mid-November, there’s something in its place that will prevent a government shutdown.”
In the end, Taylor said people just want stability and competence when it comes to those who run Congress.
“It’s just amazing to see though how there’s such the infighting with the Republicans, and it’s not helping their cause,” he said. “There are deep partisans in politics, but there are Americans, North Carolinians who can be persuaded to vote Democrat or Republican, but they care about competence, and they care about the capacity to lead and skill in leadership, and this isn’t helping the Republican brand. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”