US Congress Debates ICOs, Cryptocurrency Regulation in House Subcommittee Hearing


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“I believe this is probably hello, not goodbye.”

Thus said Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) as he adjourned Wednesday’s US House Capital Markets, Securities, and Investment Subcommittee hearing, which was devoted to discussing cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings (ICOs), and whether the current regulatory framework adequately protects investors.

Huizenga was speaking to a group of academics and cryptocurrency industry representatives who had testified before the subcommittee, largely arguing that regulators need to clarify the legal status of cryptoassets to help entrepreneurs innovate while remaining compliant with federal rules.

As was the case in a recent Senate hearing on cryptocurrency regulation, lawmakers conveyed varying opinions about the value of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

Some committee members harped on cryptocurrency’s alleged association with terrorism. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), for instance, called cryptocurrencies a “crock” and expressed doubt that they can be used to accomplish any social good that cannot be achieved otherwise.

“Perhaps we’ll have another hearing after a major terrorist event” is financed using cryptocurrency,” he quipped, adding elsewhere that cryptocurrencies are only “popular with guys who want to sit in their pajamas and tell their wives they’re going to be millionaires.”

Others, however, lauded ICOs and other blockchain-related fintech advancements and cautioned that hasty or overbearing regulations could threaten the country’s status as a fintech leader.

“Regulation in this space is something that the U.S. has to get right, because poor or rushed policy in cryptocurrencies really threatens our reputation in finance and technology,” said Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC).

Similarly, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) — a member of the cryptocurrency-friendly Congressional Blockchain Caucus — criticized politicians for calling for new regulations without taking the time to research and develop an adequate understanding of the technology.

“I hear elected officials who don’t have any concept of what we’re dealing with here and how exciting it is talking about, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got to run in and regulate and create more government infrastructure,’” commented Emmer, adding that although there needs to be modest cryptocurrency regulation, the access to capital that ICOs provide “is something Democrats and Republicans should celebrate.”

Overall though — as Huizenga remarked when he adjourned the meeting — this hearing largely served as a way to introduce lawmakers to the regulatory and operational climate in the nascent cryptcoasset space, particularly in regard to ICOs. This is not, one can be sure, the last time Congress will find itself discussing cryptocurrency regulation.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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