U.S. House's Spending Bill Aims to Hamstring SEC's Gensler Amid His Crypto Crackdown

Lawmakers agreed to an amendment from Tom Emmer, a senior House member and vocal crypto supporter, to insert an SEC-blocking provision in their government spending plan.

AccessTimeIconNov 8, 2023 at 11:58 p.m. UTC

As the U.S. House of Representatives weighs legislation on next year's spending, a provision was added on Wednesday that would deprive funding from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforcement actions against crypto businesses.

The move – authored by Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), one of the industry's closest allies on Capitol Hill – was targeted at SEC Chair Gary Gensler, who Emmer criticized Wednesday as trying to steer the crypto industry with enforcement actions rather than policy.

The House appropriations bill – known as Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2024 – was revised by several amendments on Wednesday, including this one from Emmer. It was among more than 100 amendments proposed for the bill, and members approved it in a voice vote.

"My amendment prohibits the SEC from using funds for enforcement activities related to digital asset transactions until Congress passes legislation that gives the SEC jurisdiction over this asset class," said Emmer, who was briefly considered by his colleagues recently for the House speaker role, in his floor statement on the amendment. "This will keep Chair Gensler – who has proven himself to be ineffective and incompetent – in check while Congress continues working to give this industry a chance to grow and develop right here in the United States."

Of course, any House appropriations package must also be backed by the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats more closely aligned with Gensler. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and some others actively cheer Gensler's use of enforcement actions against crypto firms.

"Now the Senate must continue working towards a common sense, bipartisan solution that allows blockchain technology to thrive while protecting American consumers and investors," said former Reps. David McIntosh and Tim Ryan, who are co-chairs of the Blockchain Innovation Project and said they aided in Emmer's amendment.

The Congress is currently heading toward another budget impasse when the government's current, temporary funding is depleted by Nov. 17. While a short-term solution was agreed to previously, then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was fired by his GOP colleagues and replaced with a new speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson (F-La.), who voted against that budget extension.

Gensler said Wednesday that his agency has pursued as many as 150 actions against crypto firms.

"I'm really proud of that," he said at the DC Fintech Week event in Washington.

Edited by Nick Baker.


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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.