U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) represents the 10th District.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry will assume an elevated role in the circle of Republican leadership, as it was announced Thursday he has been selected to serve as chief deputy whip of the House GOP Conference.

McHenry represents the majority of Asheville and eastern Buncombe County in North Carolina’s 10th District, which also includes Rutherford County among other counties in the Piedmont of North Carolina. He was selected by U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who was recently voted House majority whip-elect. The congressman’s new post is the highest appointed position in the House Republican Conference, as candidates for higher-ranking leadership positions must be elected.

The news comes weeks after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was dealt a staggering primary defeat to a Tea Party challenger.

Since then, Republican House members have been forced to quickly go about restructuring the organization of their party leadership. Despite the new appointment, the congressman is still up for re-election in November.

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McHenry, a decade-long member of Congress, will become responsible for assisting both Scalise and House Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in wrangling votes for legislation in the interest of the Republican party. In a news release, the congressman said he was “humbled and honored” to have been named to the position.

“(Rep. Scalise) is a strong conservative leader for our conference, and I am excited for the opportunity to be part of his team,” McHenry said. “I look forward to working with him, our five Senior Deputy Whips, and the rest of the whip team to support a conservative pro-growth agenda that will improve our economy, create jobs and help middle class families.”

Although Scalise said McHenry had been tapped for his experience and his ability to “unite the conference,” McHenry had contributed efforts in recent weeks to lobby votes for Scalise’s election to the whip position.

While McHenry’s new job is important, the majority of it will play out behind the scenes. He will track positions of his fellow Republicans on various issues and attempt to persuade his colleagues to help pass leadership-backed legislation. With Scalise, he will become one of two southern, “red state” Republicans now serving in GOP leadership roles.

Despite the prominence of the position on Capitol Hill, McHenry’s role will not likely make him a target for the kind of opposition encountered by minority and majority leaders.

Ken Fernandez, an assistant professor of political science at Elon University, said McHenry’s new activity could potentially benefit both him and his district in the future over time.

“A chief deputy whip doesn’t necessarily have a target on their back,” Fernandez said. “The position could become a stepping stone for a higher position. Leadership positions are meaningful to members… The party appreciates that type of role, and the activity can mean something down the line for the individual or for potential favors in their district.”

There is precedent for the possibility for McHenry’s new position to be the first in a potential line of increased influence among his colleagues. Included among McHenry’s predecessors as chief deputy whip are Cantor, McCarthy and former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

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James Harrison is a contributing reporter with Carolina Public Press. Reach him at jharrison@carolinapublicpress.org.

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