Crypto Bills May Depend on U.S. House GOP Battle Over Scalise Speaker Pick

If Republicans can’t unify behind Scalise or another choice to be speaker, paralysis in the House over crypto legislation and a potential government shutdown could continue.

AccessTimeIconOct 11, 2023 at 8:28 p.m. UTC
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  • House Republicans quickly nominated a replacement for the speaker of the House, current Majority Leader Steve Scalise, but a floor vote may be more of a challenge, and legislation to fund the government and to regulate crypto may hinge on the outcome.
  • Several GOP lawmakers have already declared they won't be voting for Scalise, though others who ousted Kevin McCarthy are on board.

The U.S. House of Representatives won’t get back to work on crypto legislation if Republicans can’t unify behind majority choice Steve Scalise – or some alternative – after the party’s ousting of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) derailed the congressional agenda.

The GOP nominee to replace him, Rep. Scalise (R-La.), so far may be short of the 217 supporters needed to elect him as speaker in a floor vote, as a handful of Republican lawmakers openly stated their intention to favor a different candidate on Wednesday. Until Scalise hits his number, Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) – currently the No. 3 rank in the House – remains unable to pursue Scalise’s majority leader spot, which could potentially further elevate one of Congress’ most avowed fans of crypto.

The uncertainty over Scalise also keeps Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the stand-in speaker, from returning to his chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, which has been shepherding the leading crypto legislation in this session. When Republicans eventually pick a speaker, industry lobbyists have suggested McHenry may have built up some goodwill for taking the party’s reins, and he could spend some of that on getting floor votes for two crypto bills that cleared his panel.

The unprecedented ousting of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy last week left the chamber in some disarray. The Wednesday nomination of Scalise over Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the favored candidate of former President Donald Trump and his supporters in Congress, left some hard feelings in the party. Some Jordan supporters posted on X.com that they’ll keep backing him over Scalise, and at least one took issue with Scalise’s budget position.

“I let Scalise know in person that he doesn’t have my vote on the floor, because he has not articulated a viable plan for avoiding an omnibus,” Rep. Tom Massie posted on the site formerly known as Twitter.

Jordan reportedly offered to nominate Scalise himself on the House floor, and some among the Republicans who rose up against McCarthy – including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) – indicated they’ll vote for Scalise, so it’s possible the rest of that conservative block can still be moved.

For the digital assets industry, one of the major immediate impediments to crypto progress is the speakership uncertainty. The next roadblock will also be a new speaker’s priority: funding the federal government. Congress has until Nov. 17 to work out a spending package – potentially another temporary extension – to keep the government functioning.

After that, lawmakers can return to the regular course of legislating, which could include consideration of digital assets bills, assuming Scalise didn’t make other hefty legislative promises to secure support in the speaker vote. Two crypto-focused bills are on deck in the House. One would set up government guardrails for U.S.-issued stablecoins and the other would establish a wide-reaching system of regulations for crypto markets.

Even if the House eventually approves one or both of the bills, their fate in the Senate remains problematic. Key lawmakers there – including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee – are highly critical of the industry.

Edited by Stephen Alpher.

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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.


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