Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the bow-tied lawmaker who became nationally famous for angrily banging the speaker’s gavel in the wake of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster, will not seek reelection.
“I will be retiring from Congress at the end of my current term,” McHenry, 48, said in a statement Tuesday. “This is not a decision I come to lightly, but I believe there is a season for everything and — for me — this season has come to an end.”
News of his retirement was first reported by Politico.
McHenry, previously a realtor, has been in Congress since 2005. Originally known more as a rhetorical pit bull than a policy expert, in recent years he’s been seen as a sober and experienced member interested in dealing with the changing banking and retail financial environment.
That image, however, took a slight hit in October, when McCarthy, a California Republican, named McHenry to be the acting speaker pro tempore — essentially an interim speaker — while the House floor was frozen after a small group of Republicans helped Democrats oust McCarthy.
In recessing the chamber right after McCarthy was sent packing from the top job in an unprecedented vote, McHenry banged the speaker’s gavel violently in frustration and became a minor social media phenomenon.
McHenry explained later he was simply upset that his friend McCarthy, who he credited for helping get the House Republicans into majority status, had been toppled, even though he knew it was likely to happen.
“What I didn’t recognize was the emotion of the moment, and that’s what came out — just the emotion and a level of anger about the position that we would be in,” McHenry told the Washington Examiner.
During the three weeks that McHenry presided over the House while Republicans struggled to come up with a new leader, the House took no substantive legislative action.
McHenry defended that approach even as some Republicans said he was defining his interim role too narrowly. If another speaker is someday ousted on the House floor as McCarthy was, McHenry’s tenure will set a precedent for the next interim speaker.
Since taking over the House financial services gavel in January, McHenry has focused on more technical but significant issues such as cryptocurrency, central bank digital currencies and Basel III, an international banking regulation framework.
In his statement Tuesday, McHenry downplayed concerns about the number of retirement announcements coming out of Congress lately.
“Whether [it’s] 1974, 1994, or 2010, we’ve seen the House evolve over time. Evolutions are often lumpy and disjointed but at each stage, new leaders emerge,” he said. “There are many smart and capable members who remain, and others are on their way. I’m confident the House is in good hands.”