Senate Republicans signaled Wednesday they would be open to expanding the powers of Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) as Speaker pro tempore to end the chaos in the House.
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) said McHenry “might be a landing place” to allow the House to start conducting pressing business.
“He’s a conservative, but he’s somebody who’s solutions oriented and practical and understands that part of the job around here, whether we like it or not, is to govern. I think that’s something that he gets, so we’ll see,” Thune said.
“He’s a smart guy,” he continued. “He kind of knows how to navigate the House and I hope that he can figure out a path forward that would avoid [a government shutdown].”
Some conservatives who have backed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as the next Speaker agree — with a caveat.
“I think there’s a very significant difference between doing it temporarily and doing it long-term. Temporarily strikes me as reasonable so the House can function as a governing body,” Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) told The Hill, noting that he doesn’t know McHenry well, but he believes he’d “make a great Speaker.”
Vance added he could back a deal giving McHenry those powers through Thanksgiving, but that any longer would be a problem for him.
To more than a half-dozen Senate Republicans across the ideological spectrum, the idea sounds good as turmoil continues to fester within the House Republican conference.
Jordan, the GOP Speaker nominee, started to bleed support Wednesday as four Republicans flipped their support away from him on the second ballot — one day after 20 House Republicans opposed him on the first vote.
That, coupled with a looming government shutdown deadline and war in Israel, has prompted lawmakers to call for McHenry, the current interim Speaker, to be effectively handed the job on a caretaker basis.
Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) have proposed giving McHenry, who currently chairs the House Financial Services Committee, powers to hold the role through at least Thanksgiving as government funding expires Nov. 17.
Talks are also ongoing on an aid package for Israel and Ukraine that could include other items important to the GOP, such as the border and Taiwan.
In addition to Senate Republicans throwing their support behind the proposition, some Democrats in the upper chamber believe McHenry is an honest broker and would help get Congress moving once again.
“I like McHenry. I don’t think that necessarily helps him that I say that,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has worked with McHenry on a number of items as Senate Banking Committee chairman.
“I think we can work with him, yes,” he added.
McHenry, a 10-term lawmaker from western North Carolina, has done a full 180 throughout his time in Congress; he entered as a conservative rabble-rouser and more recently became an inside player and top ally to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who served in the House until recently and has been a leading emissary for Senate Republicans and their counterparts in the lower chamber, told reporters Wednesday that McHenry serving temporarily is the “likely” avenue for House Republicans.
Some House Republicans downplayed the chatter, saying that McHenry would not get the requisite support from within the chamber to assume those powers. At least one House Democrat, however, said they’d support it. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that he backs the idea, especially with less than a month before government funding runs out.
There is also one major question: Does McHenry want the top job, even on a temporary basis?
The North Carolina congressman earlier this year eschewed a bid for leadership, preferring to become chairman of Financial Services Committee instead of running for House majority whip.
According to lawmakers that know him well, the answer is no.
Mullin noted McHenry has a young family, and the Speakership “is not conducive to having a family and still being involved in their life.”
“If he wanted it, he could have already ran,” Mullin added.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a fellow Tar Heel State lawmaker, argued that McHenry would be a “good, steadying hand” during tumultuous times, but he agreed with Mullin’s assessment.
“Oh God, no. … No he doesn’t,” Tillis said. “He may be the only one out of 435 who wouldn’t want the job, but … I think he’d do it for the right reasons and he has no long-term interest in doing the job. He wants to chair Financial Services and he wants to act like an adult.”
McHenry told CNN as much Wednesday, saying that the Speakership is “not something I’m seeking.”
“I’m not asking for anything,” he added.