Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican from Lincoln County, will serve as interim U.S. House speaker until someone is chosen to succeed Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who was ousted Tuesday.
McHenry, 47, began serving in Congress in 2002 and served as one of McCarthy’s top allies in his role as House speaker. He had been floated as a potential successor if McCarthy were to be removed from his leadership role, but it remains unclear when a replacement could be chosen.
The speaker has a secret list of successors, and McHenry was at the top of the list. That made him the immediate successor.
McHenry told McClatchy Tuesday when asked about becoming speaker that his entire focus was on ensuring that McCarthy maintained his leadership role. But after McCarthy was voted out Tuesday afternoon, McHenry took control of the House and closed the hearing, slamming his gavel forcefully into the podium.
It was an unprecedented moment in U.S. history. No U.S. House speaker has ever been removed with a resolution to oust them. But when McCarthy made a deal in January with the far-right House Freedom Caucus in exchange for their votes he agreed to reduce the number of House members needed to call for his ousting to just one.
And Rep. Matt Gaetz took that opportunity Monday night, making a motion to remove his leader as their speaker. Gaetz and the Freedom Caucus used appropriations bills as a bargaining chip. But when McCarthy went behind their backs and worked with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown it launched Gaetz into action.
Before the vote, Rep. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, “The Speaker denied his right-flank the shutdown they wanted, so this week they’ll try to fire him.” Jackson and other Democrats joined that right flank. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Democrats voted to oust McCarthy because of the GOP’s “unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism,” CNN reported.
North Carolina Republicans all voted to keep McCarthy, including Rep. Dan Bishop, a Charlotte-area Republican who’s running for N.C. attorney general. Bishop said McCarthy is an accurate reflection of the House Republican Caucus, that “one person’s play call with roughly 5-7 potential supporters portends no path toward success” and that he’s leaving Congress and didn’t “want to impose this burden on an institution from which I am soon to depart.”
Now, Congress has until Nov. 17 to pass a spending bill to avert a government shutdown but can’t operate until a new speaker is chosen.