A young Patrick McHenry rose through the House GOP by bashing the government’s economic rescue plans in the wake of the global financial crisis. In 2008, the conservative North Carolinian — a self-described “bomb-thrower” — helped sink the Bush administration’s first attempt to save Wall Street, triggering a historic stock market crash. Fourteen years later, with the banking system on the precipice once again, McHenry is anything but a partisan warrior in his new role as chair of the House Financial Services Committee. Rather than attack the Biden administration’s decision to backstop depositors at two failed regional banks, his first move offered political cover and calm as the crisis unfurled. “I’m confident in their ability to do the right thing,” McHenry said in an interview.
“He was extremely right-wing,” said Cam Fine, the former head of the Independent Community Bankers of America, which works closely with the Financial Services Committee. “He was pretty bombastic, quite frankly, and said a lot of things that you kind of shook your head at a little bit. … He was a ball of energy.” People close to McHenry said he realized over time that he didn’t want to pursue higher office and should get serious about his work in the House – in particular at the Financial Services Committee. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who advised McHenry to prioritize a committee chairmanship over leadership, said he was “a bomb thrower when he first came in … and then he dramatically matured.”
Old as I am, I recall being a “young turk” at one point and participating noisily in a successful effort to change House rules which the then Establishment found adequate. I learned a lot about the institution from the effort, vented my frustrations, and gradually became part of the Establishment myself. Youth presses age, provides a good deal of the dynamic and the dialogue, and eventually ages. Partisans may not like the tranquility of my view of these recent histrionics, but I find reassurance in the cycle of renewal.