Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C) threatened to quit if Republicans push him to try to move legislation on the floor without a formal vote to empower him.
“If you guys try to do that, you’ll figure out who the next person on Kevin’s list is,” three people who heard the comments told NBC News. McHenry was chosen by Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to replace him after he was removed from the job over two weeks ago.
McHenry made the comments Thursday during a nearly four hour long GOP conference meeting. At the meeting, some Republicans discussed whether they could give him more power “by acclamation” or by an internal vote.
McHenry is unwilling to take that route because he thinks it would set a bad precedent that would give future temporary speakers the full power of speakers who are elected on the House floor, thus eliminating the need for House speakers entirely.
One lawmaker who was in the room told NBC that McHenry “will not act in a manner he interprets as unconstitutional” as speaker pro tem.
McHenry told reporters Thursday night that he thought a resolution to empower him was within House rules, but acting as if he already had the authority to move bills was not.
“I wanted people to be clear, though, that some other alternative here is something that I believe is unconstitutional and not conforming with House rules. Furthermore, that I would not participate in any attempt to make that type of change,” McHenry said.
“If there is some goal to subvert the House rules to give me powers without a formal vote, I will not accept it,” he added.
But, several House Republicans, including Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), have said they would not back a formal resolution to empower McHenry, because such a move would require the help of Democrats.
“I strongly oppose any attempt to create a Democrat backed coalition government,” Stefanik said in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Passing legislation with the help of Democrats was what led to McCarthy’s ouster.
So, for the foreseeable future the House remains frozen until Republicans are able to elect a new speaker. But they can’t seem to agree on anyone who can secure 217 votes to be elected speaker and get things moving again.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) failed to secure the votes twice already and he’s actually losing support heading into a third round of voting scheduled for Friday.