McHenry, 48, was first elected to the House in 2004, and represents North Carolina’s 10th congressional district. Early in his career, McHenry developed a reputation as a hyper-partisan “attack dog-in-training,” slamming Democrats but also moderate Republicans. After nearly two decades in Congress, however, McHenry has kept a lower profile, eschewing top leadership positions and chairing the House Financial Services Committee.
That changed after the ouster of then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in early October. That move thrust McHenry into the spotlight as McCarthy’s designated speaker pro tempore, or acting speaker. McHenry presided over the chamber for three weeks — with limited powers — as the Republican conference failed multiple times to coalesce behind a permanent replacement.
In one of his first acts as temporary speaker, McHenry ordered former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the former Democratic majority leader, to vacate their Capitol hideaway offices.
Though McHenry did not express interest in seeking the speakership permanently, he seemed amenable to some Republicans’ calls to expand the powers of the acting speaker. Ultimately, after a three-week-long impasse and multiple failed votes, Republicans successfully elected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).
McHenry, who before his stint as acting speaker was better known for his bow ties and deadpan jokes, is a close ally of McCarthy. He was first elected to the House in 2004, when he was 29, after a grass-roots campaign that involved knocking on 60,000 doors, according to the Associated Press. He worked on the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush, who later appointed him as special assistant to the U.S. secretary of labor.
McHenry will join the more than three dozen House members who have announced they will not seek reelection in 2024, either because they are retiring or seeking other office. His planned departure is among the most high-profile.
McHenry’s district, which covers parts of central and western North Carolina to the northwest of Charlotte, is deep red, and his seat is likely to stay in Republican hands. Donald Trump won the district by more than 36 points in 2020, and McHenry has repeatedly won reelection by landslide margins, most recently with nearly 73 percent of the vote in 2022.
Andrew Jeong contributed to this report.