Crypto-Friendly McHenry Steps Up As Temporary Speaker
McHenry will have a difficult job to do as the next shutdown deadline looms.
For the first time ever, the House Speaker has been ousted. Patrick McHenry, a Republican who has recently been in the headlines for his work to hold Gary Gensler and the SEC accountable for their harsh treatment of digital asset businesses, becomes the "Speaker pro tempore", or interim Speaker.
Background: The (Unpopular) Debt Deal
On September 30, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy struck an eleventh-hour deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, in defiance of a small group of hardline Republicans who are concerned about the rate the US is adding to its national debt.
While the deal kept the lights on, and salary payments flowing to millions of federal employees, there was a price to pay for his perceived treachery. Matt Gaetz, the leader of the ultra-conservative group of eight, led a vote to remove McCarthy. Supported by Democrats, the vote passed.
What happens next is unclear, because the situation is unprecedented in American politics. (As McCarthy himself said at a press conference following the vote, "I made history, didn’t I?") For now, as the House figures out how to elect a new Speaker, McHenry will have that role.
McHenry is well-known within the crypto community for his defense of the digital asset sector, and very public criticism of the SEC, especially its Chairman Gary Gensler. On several occasions, McHenry and other Republicans have questioned Gensler about the agency's overreach and persecution of crypto businesses.
At the end of last month, when Gensler testified before the House Financial Services Committee, McHenry threatened him with a subpoena if the SEC did not submit documentation about the agency's dealings with FTX, which was requested in February of this year. He has also been skeptical about CBDCs.
Assuming the post of Speaker, even temporarily, raises McHenry's profile in Congress. It's unclear how this will impact his work to bring transparency and fairness to crypto asset regulation, but this increased influence cannot be a bad thing.
However, at least one other major question remains. The next shutdown deadline is less than six weeks away, and the dysfunction in Congress suggests that the next deal could be even harder to strike. How will McHenry navigate those choppy waters, and what might it mean for his career—and his continued defense of the crypto sector—if he puts a foot wrong?
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