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‘Crypto King’ Tom Emmer has a shot at US House Speaker. Trump may blow his chances

‘Crypto King’ Tom Emmer has a shot at US House Speaker. Trump may blow his chances
US Representative Tom Emmer has announced his bid for the House Speaker nomination. Credit: Rita Fortunato/DL News
  • Donald Trump may stand in the way of longtime crypto supporter Tom Emmer becoming Speaker of the House.
  • The House of Representatives majority whip has backed the industry for years and has received political donations from it.
  • However, a defenestrated ex-president and almost unprecedented Republican infighting could hold him back.

He’s been dubbed the Crypto King of Congress, and now Republican Tom Emmer is in the front runner for Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

After Republican Jim Jordan’s bid for the position failed, Emmer, a Minnesota congressman and the House Majority Whip, is seeking the nomination to be the third most powerful elected official in the US..

Emmer has the endorsement of the previous speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California. For the crypto industry, this is good news — one of their staunchest allies on Capitol Hill is poised to bid for a post that has the power to decide what bills come to a vote and go on to become laws.

But Politico reported that Emmer has one major obstacle between him and the job — Donald Trump.

Staffers for the former president, who is running for Republican nomination again in the 2024 election, are apparently already trying to sabotage Emmer’s chances, believing him to be out of touch with the party and too critical of Trump.

Who is Tom Emmer?

Emmer, 62, is a father of seven and a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who has worked to support the police and oppose abortion, among other initiatives.

By his own telling, Emmer first became intrigued by crypto on joining Congress in 2015, after a staffer gave him The Age of Cryptocurrency, a book by two Wall Street Journal reporters.

According to a profile in the Washington Post, he began to court the crypto industry in 2020 by urging its leaders to make political donations.

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The Post quoted OpenSecrets data showing that Emmer personally collected $78,000 in donations from the crypto industry in 2022. His donors included Ryan Salame, an executive at failed exchange FTX, and Digital Currency Group CEO Barry Silbert.

While he has accepted donations from traditional finance players such as JPMorgan and Mastercard this year, crypto firms have not donated to him so far this year, according to OpenSecrets.

Emmer also led the Republican Party’s fundraising efforts, which netted millions from Salame and FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, as well as from crypto-related political action committees.

Emmer sits on the House Financial Services Committee, where during hearings he sounds a note of crypto-optimism among the sceptics.

Big banks

He has also inveighed against one of the industry’s most fearsome scourges, Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler, calling him “incompetent” and saying he favours big banks over ordinary Americans.

Emmer has backed a flurry of crypto-friendly bills, fought laws that would have forced crypto investors to report gains to the tax man, and led the Congressional Blockchain Caucus to counter the SEC’s efforts to impose reporting requirements on crypto firms.

Like many of his Republican allies, Emmer staunchly opposes central bank digital currencies, likening them to Chinese Communist Party-style spy tools.

While the battle for the speakership rages, House Financial Services Committee chair Patrick McHenry has stepped in as interim speaker.

McHenry, remarkable for his dapper suits and bow ties, is also a crypto proponent.

His careful negotiations with his committee’s top Democrat, Maxine Waters, resulted in a bipartisan stablecoin bill.

Becoming law

He also worked in an unusual cross-committee collaboration with his counterpart on the House Committee on Agriculture to produce a bill that would instate a market structure for crypto.

The market structure bill and a Republican version of the stablecoin bill were voted out of committee this year. That’s a big step forward.

But pro-crypto observers fear that the brouhaha over voting in a new Speaker will hurt the two bills’ chances of becoming law any time soon, as McHenry is distracted by his new — albeit temporary — duties.

Choosing a House speaker will free up McHenry to get back to legislating, and put Emmer in a position of even greater power — both potentially good things for the crypto industry.

House speakers are usually swiftly and unanimously voted in by their parties every two years, at the beginning of a new Congress.

But this year has seen dysfunction among both Republicans and Democrats boil over into a protracted fight for the speakership that’s unprecedented in living memory.

McCarthy was elected to the top job in January 2022, only to be ousted by the ultra-right wing of his own party in a brutal coup in early October.

Path to the chair

This opened up the field for Emmer to replace him, especially after Jordan’s third attempt to become Speaker crashed and burned — earning him the questionable honour of being made fun of in last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live.

Emmer’s path to the Speaker chair is not clear. Not only does he have to contest against other candidates — such as GOP Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson and Chairman of the Republican Study Committee Kevin Hern — but he also has to deal with the MAGA wing of the GOP conference.

According to Politico, Trump allies are already working to thwart Emmer’s chances.

For instance, top Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn appeared on the pro-Trump “War Room” podcast on Friday, noting how Emmer has not embraced the ousted president.

Trump has also expressed concerns in private about Emmer, saying the Minnesota Republican has not forcefully defended him against the indictments he is facing, according to two sources familiar with the matter who spoke with Politico.

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