President Joe Biden’s cryptocurrency policy rollout was delayed by a dispute between White House officials and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen over the scope of a pending executive order that could include a digital dollar, according to people familiar with the matter.
The order, intended to set a government-wide strategy for digital assets, was expected to be signed at the start of the year but the squabble between Yellen’s staff and officials on the National Economic Council slowed its progress, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Senior administration officials have now completed a draft version that is ready for Biden’s consideration, though further action could be delayed because of the Ukraine crisis.
Yellen views the plan for an executive order as unnecessary, particularly any mention of a central bank issued digital dollar, according to two of the people. The Treasury chief and her team say that the Federal Reserve, which released a report last month, are still working on the topic and should be allowed room to develop its thinking. Her team has also expressed to the White House that Treasury and federal regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, have been making progress on providing industry with more clarity on U.S. rules around virtual currencies.
Treasury spokesman John Rizzo said the account “is inaccurate,” without directly addressing Yellen’s involvement with the White House in drafting the order. “Treasury continues to work closely with our partners throughout the administration and in the White House,” he said. A White House spokesperson also said that the administration is united in its work in digital-asset policy.
Federal agencies have taken a scatter-shot approach to digital assets over the past several years and Biden’s team is facing pressure to lead on the issue. Industry executives often bemoan what they say is a lack of clarity on U.S. rules and others worry that an embrace by China and other nations of government-backed coins could threaten the dollar’s dominance.
White House officials began work on centralizing its overall strategy for cryptocurrencies in August.