Crypto can’t seem to catch a break in Congress. That is despite what appears to be an ongoing thaw of crypto winter.
On Tuesday morning, Representative Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) announced that he would not seek another term in Congress in the impending 2024 elections.
McHenry’s Crypto Vitae
Beyond a brief tenure as pro-tempore speaker of the House during a chaotic squall in Republican leadership, McHenry is well known to the crypto world as one of its key allies in Congress. Since Republicans retook the House at the outset of 2023, he has chaired the Financial Services Committee.
Per its name, the committee is a core nexus of the nation’s financial legislation. In recent years it’s been a key venue for bills aimed at cryptocurrency. One of the most famous of these is McHenry’s own FIT Act — a piece of legislation aiming to sort out wide-reaching rules for the crypto market including what constitutes a security and commodity. The bill has had unusual mileage in Congress largely because of the fuel he gave it.
Not the Only Crypto Ally Leaving
McHenry’s departure is, consequently, a hit to the crypto industry. Among Republicans, McHenry has been the greatest beneficiary of campaign donations from industry players.
His announcement on X, formerly Twitter, saw replies from the who’s who of the crypto industry’s most D.C. visible, from Coinbase founder Brian Armstrong to David Marcus, the head of defunct stablecoin Libra.
“Those were job offer letters,” said Rohan Grey, an assistant professor at Willamette University’s law school and the author of several progressive pieces of legislation that have hit the Financial Services Committee. “We’ll have to wait and see what kind of revolving door set of jobs he gets — If he doesn’t get some from crypto after the last term then we’ll know that crypto’s really in a bad way.”
McHenry joins a roster of key figures in Congress to ally with the industry only to leave immediately. Pat Toomey (R-Penn), abruptly became a crypto champion as the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee early in 2022 before announcing that he would not be seeking re-election.
And Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who introduced and championed Sam Bankman-Fried’s beloved Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act, has also announced that she is ending her 26-year stretch in Congress at the end of her current term.
The Big Bills
McHenry’s announcement changes very little in the near term. His trademark crypto legislation was already sidelined by multiple extended deadlines, and he’d even avoided signing on as a sponsor.
McHenry ally and head of the Digital Assets Subcommittee French Hill (R-Ark.) recently told CNBC that both McHenry’s legislation and another bill touching on stablecoins would have to wait until “early in 2024,” but that is just the latest in a series of delayed timeframes.
Staffers for neither McHenry nor co-author Rep. GT Thompson (R-Penn.) returned requests for comment on the fate of their bill.
The key issue now is the succession of committee leadership. However, that was already the case for McHenry, who has completed the maximum six years as either ranking member or chair of the Financial Services Committee, per Republican rules.