The U.S. Congress is excited about Cryptocurrency and the Blockchain
U.S. lawmakers have shown a lot of positive interest in cryptocurrency and the blockchain lately. In February, the U.S. Senate held a hearing on cryptocurrency, and in March, so did the U.S. House of Representatives. Perhaps a surprise to most observers, the overwhelming tone was supportive. Lawmakers used some of the following words to describe cryptocurrency, the blockchain, and the industry: “incredible,” “positive potential,” “amazing new technology,” and “tremendous promise.” These comments were made during two separate Congressional hearings, in two difference branches of the U.S. legislature, in two different months, and by lawmakers from two different political parties. That is strong evidence that Congress is bullish on the blockchain.
Blockchain in the U.S. Senate
As reported by Techcrunch, on February 6, 2018, the Senate Banking Committee, which is formally named the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, held a hearing on “Virtual Currencies.” During this hearing, U.S. Senators voiced their opinions about cryptocurrency and the blockchain.
U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, the Chairman of the committee that held the hearing issued an official written statement and not a single negative opinion about cryptocurrency or the blockchain was contained in it. Rather, Senator Crapo noted the growth in the cryptocurrency market, “Today, the market capitalization of Bitcoin is roughly $115 billion. This is an incredible rise given that in 2013, the total value of Bitcoin in circulation was approximately $5 billion.” He stated, “Blockchain has significant positive potential to transform the financial landscape.” Bold words for a Chairman of the powerful Senate Banking committee whose jurisdiction includes banks, banking, financial institutions, the Federal Reserve, and currency.
Blockchain in the U.S. House of Representatives
The congressional interest did not stop with the Senate. On March 9, 2018 the House Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities, and Investment held a hearing entitled “Examining Cryptocurrencies and ICO Markets” and invited industry experts such as Coinbase and the Coin Center.
Representative David Scott of Georgia described the mood by saying “It’s an exciting time for us.” And more specifically said, “I’m so excited about this new cutting edge, what I call the new frontier of our financial service industry.”
Some focused on market growth in the ICO world. Representative Warren Davidson of Ohio noted that “last year it’s estimated that startups raised about $4 billion in ICOs.” But most lawmakers genuinely seemed to have an open mind, for example, Representative Randy Hultgreen of Illinois who is the Vice-Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee explained “We want to understand this, as much as we can.” One reason for all of this interest is because of the votes. According to Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a rising star in Congress, “in my meetings with constituents over the last several months,” “many of them” have asked about cryptocurrency and if they should enter the market.
But these lawmakers also seemed to be interested in the technology behind cryptocurrency, the blockchain. Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota shared his view on the blockchain calling it “An amazing new technology.” He stated, “Blockchain technology applies all over the place including cybersecurity.”
Congressman Emmer was not alone in his positive statements about the blockchain. For example, Representative Bill Foster of Illinois stated, “Distributed ledger technology has tremendous promise.” More specifically, Congressman Foster explained “The value of a non-falsifiable ledger will have broad applicability to financial and non-financial transactions. It could reduce transaction costs, increase transparency, and provide for instant and final settlement in areas ranging from cash transactions, to real property records, to securities.” After expressing where he sees the most likely applications, Congressman Foster predicted, “Much of our daily lives will soon involve something like blockchain.” Once again, bold positive words from a sitting U.S. Congressman charged with helping to secure America’s financial systems.
The positive comments were pervasive and some came with a cautionary note as stated by Representative Ted Budd of North Carolina “This technology has the potential to become something great.” But Congressmen Budd in particular warned that “Poor or rushed policy with respect to cryptocurrency and tokens really threatens America’s leadership in finance and technology.”
The technology is easy to love. But what about the people? The blockchain community has a fascinating culture and one Congressman talked a little about the community. In describing cryptocurrency and in particular, the people involved in it, Congressman Emmer said “I tend to believe people are in these things for good. That they are trying to improve their own lives, and hopefully the lives of people around them.” I agree with Congressman Emmer that in general the blockchain community seems overwhelmingly helpful and working towards a better world.
More to Come
Representative Bill Huizenga of Michigan, the Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee that held the hearing in the House was so interested in these topics that after an hour-and-a-half of testimony he announced “We’d like to go on to a second round, which basically means I get to ask another question, finally!” Chairman Huizenga went on to raise one of the core questions the world has asked, “I’m curious, will a governmental central bank in any system, recognize and utilize a cryptocurrency?” Central bank adoption could determine if cryptocurrency remains chiefly for peer to peer use, or could actually replace fiat and is a question on the minds of many, but something only time will answer.
As someone who has studied the blockchain community for several years, the evidence is clear that the shift in tone from 2013 to 2018 is significant. In my observation, when smart people take the time to research the blockchain they become fans. To the question of how U.S. lawmakers are reacting to cryptocurrency and the blockchain in 2018, the answer is they believe it is “amazing,” “incredible,” and has “tremendous promise.”