Lesser-known Johnson Wins Speaker Job as Crypto-focused Lawmakers Return to Old Roles

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson of Louisiana was a subcommittee chairman until his colleagues gave him the big gavel on Wednesday.

AccessTimeIconOct 25, 2023 at 10:47 p.m. UTC

After several failed attempts, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives dug deep into their roster to elevate a less prominent and less controversial lawmaker, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), as the new Speaker of the House.

The speaker, who drew three more than the 217 votes needed to win the job, doesn't have a track record in senior leadership or any history as a committee chairman. Indeed, he's only been a representative since 2017. But the well-liked lawmaker apparently didn't have the built-in slates of enemies burdening previous candidates, such as crypto-fan Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who survived only four hours as the top candidate on Tuesday.

Johnson, who had led a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, doesn't have a record on crypto issues. He was backed by mainstream Republicans as well as former President Donald Trump's favored ultra-conservative members after days of party despair over the inability to find a candidate who could win enough votes. Johnson is known most recently for voting against the temporary budget extension that kept the U.S. government open in September, and also for authoring a legal brief supporting the Texas bid to toss the 2020 presidential election result.

As Johnson takes the gavel, it frees up Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) to return to the House Financial Services Committee he leads, where he can focus more attention on the two crypto bills that haven't yet received floor votes. However, more urgent priorities are likely to include the funding of the federal government, which expires on Nov. 17. It's growing late in the year for Congress to tackle significant legislation beyond the must-pass funding measures.

Emmer, one of the crypto industry's most prominent allies on Capitol Hill, stays in his majority whip job – the third-ranking position in House leadership.


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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.