In the upcoming days, legislators will reconvene in the House of Representatives on October 11th, tasked with selecting a replacement for the vacant position once held by Speaker Kevin McCarthy. This void in leadership has persisted for a full week, leading to a state of relative paralysis within the United States’ federal legislative branch.
The deadlock began after a vote ousted the former Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, marking a historic event in the nation’s governance. On October 3rd, U.S. lawmakers resolved to declare the Speaker’s office vacant, a scenario previously unprecedented in American history. Representatives are now on the cusp of returning to Congress on October 11th to deliberate on the appointment of a new Speaker. Early indications suggest that Republican Representatives Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise are currently the frontrunners for the position.
In the absence of McCarthy, the interim speaker has been the crypto-friendly lawmaker Patrick McHenry, though his chances of securing the permanent role appear limited. The endorsement of Jordan by former U.S. President Donald Trump, despite his propagation of misinformation about the 2020 presidential election, hints at Jordan’s strong position. Scalise, too, may draw substantial support from within the Republican Party.
The ongoing Speaker selection process has had a paralyzing effect on legislative proceedings in the House. Ron Hammond, director of government relations at the Blockchain Association, expressed concern about its legislative implications. In an October 10th X (formerly Twitter) thread, Hammond noted that a prolonged Speaker’s race could give rise to new candidates and lead to significant developments. He emphasized that, for the crypto sector, McHenry remains a pivotal figure advocating for swift action on crypto-related matters.
Hammond also pointed out that the uncertainty surrounding the House Speaker, along with other pressing issues like the criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried and the Israel-Hamas conflict, might delay critical bills, including those related to stablecoins, until November or December. Additionally, the confluence of these major events could significantly affect legislative priorities as the nation approaches the 2024 election cycle, which traditionally diverts attention away from legislative work.
Ji Kim, the head of global policy for the Crypto Council for Innovation, emphasized the growing importance of the crypto industry in Congress. Kim suggested that key legislations, such as the Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act and the Clarity for Payment Stablecoin Act, are likely to be postponed until a new Speaker is elected.
The strategies employed by Republican lawmakers to prevent a repetition of the circumstances that led to McCarthy’s selection as Speaker in January remain uncertain. It took an astonishing 15 rounds of voting before the California Representative officially assumed the role, and this protracted process effectively put all legislative endeavors on hold.
Notably, Jordan and Scalise have not been outspoken about their positions on crypto-related matters, leaving the fate of crypto-focused bills passed by the House Financial Services Committee in July hanging in the balance. While these bills could potentially move forward with a floor vote in the full House before the next session of Congress, the delays in selecting a Speaker and the looming threat of a government shutdown in November may serve as obstacles to progress.