House Call: Two Hearings. One Day. No Clue.
Last week, two House committees held hearings on cryptocurrency on Capitol Hill. I would bet a single bitcoin that you couldn't guess both committees. If you guessed the Committee on Financial Services (well, the Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade (MPT)), you're right. If you guessed the Committee on Agriculture (Ag Committee), you might be a policy wonk and you probably know all that follows already.
The hearings were as illuminating as one would expect. The Ag Committee's hearing was entitled, "Cryptocurrencies: Oversight of New Assets in the Digital Age." The purpose of the hearing was to "shed light on the promise of digital assets and the regulatory challenges facing this new asset class." Their difficulty in conceptualizing when digital assets are securities or commodities or neither was pretty apparent. We can't really fault them for that because no one seems to have a comprehensive legal framework. However, there was an apparent interest in knowing more, closing the regulatory gaps, and promoting strong and well-regulated markets for digital assets. I think I most appreciated that one Congressmember raised the question as to whether the current laws are appropriate for these new digital assets. And in case you're wondering why the Ag Committee cares at all about cryptocurrency, it's because it has an interest in all commodity markets--including those trading digital assets (Ag Committee: not just for farmers anymore!).
On the (almost) flip side, the MPT subcommittee set out to "consider cryptocurrencies as money...evaluate the merits of any uses by central banks of cryptocurrencies, and discuss the future of both cryptocurrencies and physical cash." Some of the more notable comments came from subcommittee members with a more pessimistic (or uninformed) approach to their evaluation. One Congressmember offered that cryptocurrency should be illegal because mining uses electricity (huh?). One Congressmember suggested that cryptocurrency is only used in "facilitating narcotics trafficking, terrorism, and tax evasion," while another pondered how cryptocurrency will affect the almighty dollar.
The takeaways: they still don't know what's going on. If you don't believe me, check out the coverage below.
MPT Subcommittee Hearing
The Future of Money: Digital Currency
Ag Committee Hearing
Cryptocurrencies: Oversight of New Assets in the Digital Age