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Do Tell: The Youngest Member of Congress, Rep. Patrick McHenry

In this installment of "Do Tell," we profile Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the Jack Russell Terrier of the House Republican Conference.

As feisty as he is small (he's 5 feet 3 inches or something; he doesn't measure), McHenry is one of his party's chief attack dogs on the House floor, generally raising hell and employing whatever parliamentary tactic he can to obstruct the Democratic majority's legislation.

The baby of five children and the youngest member of Congress, McHenry was born to be precocious. His high visibility and tenacious scrappiness have earned him plenty of liberal detractors (hence a Web site called Pat Go Bye-Bye Web site and a Washington Monthly cover story comparing him to Tom DeLay and Karl Rove.) But he has also gotten buckets of praise and support from his elder fellow conservatives.

When he's not throwing bombs on the House floor, McHenry, 31, is anything but snarly. In a chat with the Sleuth in his office, the self-deprecating and mischievous McHenry talked to us about his role as floor warrior and baby of the House and his thankfulness for prematurely graying hair. And he reluctantly answered a question about what he's looking for in the wife he hasn't found yet. (Text continues below the video.)

VIDEO | (Reporter: Mary Ann Akers, Editor: Jonathan Forsythe)

Sleuth: You came to Congress [in 2004] and got the automatic title of Youngest Member of Congress...

McHenry: In my second term, still the youngest member of Congress.

Sleuth: Still the youngest -- what's that like?

McHenry: It's a blessing and curse. It's a blessing because in the beginning everyone knows your name. And then, after a while, that sort of newness wears off. And once everybody has written stories about the youngest member and you have a number of stories written, then you actually have the burden of still thinking you're a baby.

Sleuth: You're used to being the baby, because you were the baby of your family...the youngest of five kids. Do you ever think you're going to get out of that role?

McHenry: That's a good question. Being the youngest of five kids gives me a different perspective so being the youngest member of Congress fits right in, it's a natural progression. The difference is I don't get nearly as many wedgies now as I did as a child.

Sleuth: You've become a real player on the House floor. Tell me a little bit about your role in doing that and how you came to assume that role?

McHenry: I decided it was a proper role for me, to slow down Democrats in their legislative process. Still my basic perspective is we need to have conservative policies in place. Sometimes it's a matter of sticking a stick in the spokes to slow them down in their process, to make life difficult on the majority.

Sleuth: Who are some of your favorite liberal targets in the House.

McHenry: One of the most dynamic and powerful debaters on the Democrat side is Barney Frank. To get into a debate on the House floor with him is a high-wire act. Because you know he is very intelligent, you know he's very well informed, and you know he's quick witted. So to walk away with your life against Barney Frank is a success.

Sleuth: Can you think of a time that was the most contentious between you and one of the liberals?

McHenry: Barney Frank being in the speaker's chair. I asked a number of parliamentary inquires about exempting American Samoans from the minimum wage increase. A lot of American Samoans worked for a company that is headquartered in Nancy Pelosi's district so I wanted to bring this out. And Barney Frank rapped the gavel and screamed at the top of his lungs in order to shut me down. And it was a very strange couple of minutes on the floor, highly entertaining to some who watched. That's been distributed on YouTube and everywhere else.

Sleuth: Do you have time for dating? What's it like being a 31-year-old single guy in the House?

McHenry: [Laughter] I try to make time for that. It's just difficult with the schedule and everything else. I'm, uh, just trying to, I'm still trying to find the right girl. And I think in all due time it'll work out.

Sleuth: And is there a certain set of criteria you're looking for?

McHenry: Sure.

Sleuth: What is it?

McHenry: A number of things. [Laughter]

Sleuth: Just give me a little example. Does she have to like NASCAR? I hear you're a big NASCAR fan.

McHenry: Well, look, half the NASCAR teams are in my district. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a constituent. Dale Jarrett. So I don't know, you don't really have a litmus test on that. I think when you meet the right girl, you know. At least that's what all my friends tell me.

Sleuth: With the NASCAR constituency, you could be a key endorsement for a presidential candidate. Do you know yet who you might be endorsing?

McHenry: No. I am still watching the race. Rudy Giuliani's interesting, I've spoken to him. Met with Mitt Romney. Met with Fred Thompson. Not interested in supporting John McCain - apparently not many others are either based on his fundraising numbers. It's actually sad to see a campaign like that being flushed down the toilet, which apparently - he's doing the flushing.

Sleuth: Tell me about the time you stole Chris Matthews' car.

McHenry: So I was on Hardball with Chris Matthews. On this particular occasion Chris wouldn't let me finish a single sentence for this interview while letting the Democrat speak for as long as he wanted to. So I walked out of the interview and talked to my communications director and said, 'Should I be upset?' Was that a bad interview? Did he give me a fair shake?'

'No, he didn't give you a fair shake.'

So we walk out of MSNBC studios and walk out there on North Cap and there are three Lincoln town cars out there. So I walk up and basically for a joke I said, 'Are any of y'all waiting on Congressman McHenry?' They all said 'no' of course. I said, 'Anybody waiting on Hardball?' N0, none of 'em were waiting on hardball. I said, 'Any of you waiting on Chris Matthews?'

'I am."

I said, 'Let's roll.' So I took his car.

Sleuth: What's been your oddest moment in the House, most bizarre moment, most embarrassing?

McHenry: Hmmm. I was the youngest member of the state house in North Carolina, I served one term. In that first week, the Sergeant at Arms tried to escort me off the House floor because they thought I was a House page.

Actually I've had folks think that I'm an intern. Capitol Hill police stopping me because they think that I'm not a member of Congress. Just little things like that, little small things like that, when people mistake you for being an intern, it's a little embarrassing. But the more I have grey hair the easier it gets.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  July 16, 2007; 12:36 PM ET
 
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Comments

It's really a pity that both the Republican Party and the Washington Post have degenerated so much. McHenry and Akers are utterly vapid. We should move Congress to the Mid-West somewhere and forget to give these two nitwits the forwarding address.
I'm being totally serious. Washington DC has to be absorbed by either Maryland or Virginia. The legislative branch has to be moved to a centralized location, and The Washington Post along with The Washington Times have to be dismissed forever as reliable news sources.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | July 16, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Way to go, youngster! Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Zacl | July 16, 2007 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't you ask him about his stand on credit unions or his staffer/roommate facing voter fraud charges? Or, if you want to be a gossip columnist, ask him about his social life with young men, particularly the time he allegedly provided alcohol to minors at a political event.

Posted by: Drama Queen | July 16, 2007 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey Sleuth -- Check it out. Down here in NC we *like* Patrick McHenry. He gives a good account of himself, and still he's thoughtful and courteous with a good humor. What more can you ask. I can't think of a more useful enterprise than putting a stick in the wheels of the Democrat steamroller. Way to go Pat!
Jack Buttram - Rutherfordton.

Posted by: Jack Buttram | July 16, 2007 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey Sleuth -- Check it out. Down here in NC we *like* Patrick McHenry. He gives a good account of himself, and still he's thoughtful and courteous with a good humor. What more can you ask. I can't think of a more useful enterprise than putting a stick in the wheels of the Democrat steamroller. Way to go Pat!
Jack Buttram - Rutherfordton.

Posted by: Jack Buttram | July 16, 2007 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey Jack, check it out. Out here in Contra Costa County we *like* Ellen Tauscher. It was hilarious when she embarrassed that little pipsqueak of yours. Way to go North Carolina. Thanks for yet another incompetent right wing nut.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | July 17, 2007 2:40 AM | Report abuse

SOB, McHenry is apparently seen as competent to his constituents (which may not be saying much). Which is better, a Repulsican right wing nut or a Democrap left wing nut, a la Harry (what's in it for me) Reid or hypcritical Nancy (Gotta help my constituents with the Samoans) Pelosi? Not that hypocrisy is limited whatsoever among career politicians.

Posted by: r man | July 17, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

R man, are you serious? One party believes that all government is bad unless it makes their friends money. This party also believes that all government is incompetent. If this was a job interview, why would hire the Republican Party?

Posted by: Sonofabastard | July 17, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I've caught McHenry's act. He hasn't offered an original though during his term in Congress.

Posted by: Frank | July 17, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

SOB, don't leave out the party that believes that government is the solution to everything and is willing to tax the hell out of all productive individuals to accomplish their beliefs. They apparently believe that successful people and businesses are required to provide for those who won't make an effort to accomplish anything. I don't mind supporting the "can nots" of this country, but I object strenuously to supporting the "will nots". Democrap party goals applied unchecked create more and more "will nots", but increases their political power (constituency) at great cost to the nation as a whole. Don't ignore the fact that the speaker of the house cast more than one vote to help some friends make money. Repulsicans aren't the only ones guilty of that, they just do it more often to line their campaign coffers as a means to retain power.

Democraps and Repulsicans alike have gotten this country into wars that were terribly wasteful in lives and money.

I tend to Libertarian principles, which tends to make me a fiscal conservative and one who distrusts government. This is largely the result of seeing career politicians more interested in preserving power than in acting in the interest of the people and the country. As I say repeatedly, the greatest weakness in the Constitution is the failure to enact term limits for all national offices.

Posted by: r man | July 17, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

At last ... a young congressman who speaks English (as opposed to Noo Yawk, or DEE-troit). What a pleasure to learn about any body in DC who is not a friend of Barney Fag or (FOR THAT MATTER) intimidated by his PMS tantrums.

Posted by: Jake | July 17, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I have watched Rep. McHenry several times on C-Span and he appears to be totally retarded. Where do the Republican keep finding such inbred idiots to represent them. This guy is another disgrace to the image of America. He must have gotten bullied a whole lot as a child and now that he has a little authority, he is out of control. He must has some sort of mental issues that he hasn't totally gotten over. I have always questioned the mental capacity of people from North Carolina. What a waste of a life. Way to go North Carolina.

Posted by: wgriff3245 | July 17, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

While there are many people in NC who still support the Bush administration and its puppets (McHenry being one of the worst), there are just as many moderates here who want an end to attack-dog politics, the war, and cronyism. Please don't assume that the entire state is just like McHenry. No one assumes that everyone from Wyoming is just like Dick Cheney.

Posted by: Trillian | July 18, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

If McHenry were not a Congressman, what do you
think he would be doing right now?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 9:49 PM | Report abuse

R Man, most Americans have a libertarian streak in them, as do I. The problem is, the free market can't solve the environmental problems of our day. Like it or not, you absolutely need a strong, stable, and competent governmaent in order to thrive. Here is something from Salon. It's a bit of a tangent, but I'm interested in how so-called fiscal conservatives can't understand the thrust of her argument.
`
The scourge of E. coli conservatism
I never thought I'd see the day when it would be considered good news that a part of New York City was paralyzed, only one person died and there doesn't seem to be any asbestos floating around in the air as a result. (Or maybe not.) The problem is that it is actually very bad news and not just because of the death, but because it is a sign of the rapidly decaying infrastructure that has been ignored during the conservative era in favor of free market religion and the wonder-working powers of tax cuts.

Yesterday, in NY City, a pipe installed in 1924 finally gave way and ended up killing someone. Imagine that. They built things to last in those days, but I doubt anyone ever dreamed that it would have to last for nearly a century.

Rick Perlstein has been writing about what he calls "E. coli conservatism" for a while over at his blog The Big Con where, among other things, he's chronicling the increasing incidence of...sink holes. That's right, these days it's quite common to be driving or walking along a street in Anytown USA and be suddenly sucked into the ground because of the neglected infrastructure of our towns and cities. You can read about it in local papers every day. Yesterday he wrote:


"We've warned here again and again about the decrepitude of our underground infrastructure, about what happens when a nation consecrates itself to no higher domestic goal than the cutting of taxes. New York had a Republican mayor, in fact, who now spends his days boasting that he cut taxes 23 times. Cut spending, too, he's proud to say."

This is the legacy of the last 25 years of neglect. We shouldn't be relieved when we see a huge cloud of smoke and dust and find that it isn't "terrorism." It's a warning as important as a magenta terror alert or the rumblings of Michael Chertoff's gut. There is a price to pay for this free lunch the conservatives have been selling for the last thirty years and the bill is coming due.

Watch your step.

-- Digby

Posted by: Sonofabastard | July 19, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

If McHenry were not a Congressman, what do you
think he would be doing right now?

Posted by: | July 18, 2007 09:49 PM
`
He'd be the Mayor of Munchkinland, either that, or the world's porkiest jockey.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | July 19, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Instead of praising or bashing McHenry on partisan issues like his conservatisim, why not judge him on issues that are important to the country as a whole like poverty? What is his stance on poverty? Does he know that people in the poorest countries in the world survive off of less than $2 dollars a day?

Posted by: Erica | July 19, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

google Patrick McHenry and Voter Fraud. McHenry won his primary by only 86 votes, and one of his assistants who also lived at McHenry's house - has been charged with voter fraud.

Posted by: Laura Roslin | July 19, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

If McHenry were not a Congressman, he would undoubtedly be doing the same thing he did before he became one... Nothing. He had never held a job in his district before running for the NC Legislature. His career as a "businessman" amounted to getting a real estate license, though no transactions from his company were ever recorded, and listing his cell phone as a business line. Read more here, especially the section called "I shot the sherriff": http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2005/0510.wallace-wells.html

Posted by: Trillian | July 19, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

This guy is a total tool. He is not well liked amongst his colleagues.

Posted by: Hill Staffer | July 19, 2007 10:11 PM | Report abuse

SOB, I agree that spending tax dollars on infrastructure that supports commerce and therefore the well being of all citizens makes good sense. I despise the unbelievable waste Democraps and Repulsicans alike engage in with "earmark" pork barrel spending. Patrick McHenry is a perfect example of this. He placed an earmark for over $100K for something about "the perfect Christmas Tree" in his home state. Another Repulsican Congressman from Arizona whose name I can't recall was able to get the bill amended to remove McHenry's earmark. The guy from Arizona does not introduce earmarks and consistently tries to remove the pork that others introduce. The $ that are wasted in earmarks and other stupid and private interest spending by government could fund a lot infrastructure needs for the nation. Good fiscal conservatives can tell the difference between $ taken at the point of the IRS federal gun and spent on fluff as opposed to spending for things that truly benefit those who want to be productive citizens.

Posted by: r man | July 20, 2007 7:25 AM | Report abuse

I just read a great book.

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Its about the Congressional Race of 2004 from Florida's 16th District.

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Its called An American Patriot by Gary Koniz

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Its a documentary about the Democrat who ran against Mark Foley.

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:27 PM | Report abuse

My friends in DC said that Jeff Fisher is walking all over the city with the book and talking to several embassies.

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Here is the link to the book.

http://www.lulu.com/content/743942

Its worth the money.

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Now for more links | July 20, 2007 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWAtkins | July 20, 2007 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JackieAnneWatkins | July 20, 2007 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Gee JackieAnne, are you technologically inept or do you have an inanely (or perhaps insanely) short attention span?

Posted by: r man | July 23, 2007 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Instead of praising or bashing McHenry on partisan issues like his conservatisim, why not judge him on issues that are important to the country as a whole like poverty? What is his stance on poverty? Does he know that people in the poorest countries in the world survive off of less than $2 dollars a day?

Posted by: Erica | July 23, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

You can catch the Sleuth in action on C-SPAN and his friend in the Senate on C-SPAN2.

You can also keep up with the legislative process at:

http://www.senatus.wordpress.com

PV

Posted by: Publius | July 23, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Ms Sleuth,
I would like to know how many civilians are in Iraq doing business and how much those businesses are taken into account by this administration in the refusal to bring the troupes home.

Posted by: Pierrette Driez | July 24, 2007 2:12 AM | Report abuse

All these questions on McHenry's interview were interesting, but they only delved into his personal life. What are his takes on poverty in the U.S. and worldwide? Does he know that less than half of aid from the United States goes to the poorest countries where people earn less than $2 a day [Borgen Proeject]? I wish this interview would have helped me understand what his views are on that.

Posted by: Erica | July 24, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Just imagine if he and that other "so called" Conservative Anne (the devil's hench woman)Coulter spawned an off spring!

My God there would be no doubt that the end is near!!!!!!!!!!

Such a waste of space and the pandering to this jerk (arrogant egotism seems to be the only answer the Republican't can come up with) too bad the vast majority finally sees the light to their thin veneer of "so called" values yeah values for themselves and screw everyone else!

He fits the phony Christian mold perfectly!

Posted by: nettie | July 25, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Just imagine if he and that other "so called" Conservative Anne (the devil's hench woman)Coulter spawned an off spring!

My God there would be no doubt that the end is near!!!!!!!!!!

Such a waste of space and the pandering to this jerk (arrogant egotism seems to be the only answer the Republican't can come up with) too bad the vast majority finally sees the light to their thin veneer of "so called" values yeah values for themselves and screw everyone else!

He fits the phony Christian mold perfectly!

Posted by: nettie | July 25, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

For me, McHenry's biggest moment was an impassioned defense on the floor of the House of Tom DeLay...just before the political demise of that upstanding representative. McHenry may be a scrapper, but he's far from being a worthwhile member of Congress. As one of his 'constituents', I'll do what I can to see that he is replaced in 2008.

Posted by: Frank White | July 25, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Why Master McHenry must have a crush on Barney!! Patrick has no need for a gal pal. Voters in NC, get smart and google this lil' guy.

Posted by: maxbadal | July 25, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

You know what happens to attack dogs they get put down because they attack someone they shouldn't.

Posted by: ant | July 26, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

McHenry is just another Fascist brown shirt trying to destroy America from within!

Posted by: ghostcommander | July 26, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

So, apparently Repubs think they are voting for Patrick Henry...

Posted by: Jacques | July 26, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

McHenry has a closet FULL of secrets. The people around him have crap in their closets.

Google him.

OPEN your MINDS.

Posted by: truth | July 27, 2007 2:04 AM | Report abuse

McHenry will certainly reach great heights as a member of the GOP. He fits the molds set for Dan Quayle, Spiro Agnew, George W. Bush, proudly ignorant of history or much of anything else.

Posted by: Phil-007 | July 31, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

CAN YOU SPELL OBSTRCTIONIST?

This guy is proud of being a bully and offering that and nothing else. His evaluation of a bill's benefits is lock-step with the political director of his party. His calculus is simple(-minded) Republican = good. Democrat = Bad.

He is a member of the lie-er in chief's party, the uniter. Right.

Sleuth: Tell me a little bit about your role in doing that and how you came to assume that role?

McHenry: I decided it was a proper role for me, to slow down Democrats in their legislative process. ... Sometimes it's a matter of sticking a stick in the spokes to slow them down in their process, to make life difficult on the majority.

Posted by: i know an a-hole when i see one. | August 3, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

What a pleasure to learn about any body in DC who is not a friend of Barney Fag or (FOR THAT MATTER) intimidated by his PMS tantrums.

Posted by: Jake | July 17, 2007 11:30 AM

AKERS, YOU WOULDN'T TOLERATE LANGUAGE IN THE COMMENTS LIKE NIGG*R,SP*CK,CR*CKER, OR C*NT, WHY DO YOU TOLERATE THE WORDS Barney Fag?

Posted by: Jake's worst nightmare | August 3, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Where do the Republican keep finding such inbred idiots to represent them. This guy is another disgrace to the image of America.

I do agree with the dude who did posit that he is another Fascist brown shirt trying to destroy America from within!

He could turn out to be another red-devil.

Posted by: Herbert-Jean Awuor | August 8, 2007 5:23 AM | Report abuse

Talks alot about himself. Talks very little about North Carolina. Representative?

Posted by: chuck upe | August 13, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

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