After getting its feet wet last week with hearings on Facebook’s forthcoming digital currency libra, the United States Congress is taking a deep dive into the Bitcoin industry.
The U.S. Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will host a hearing entitled “Examining Regulatory Frameworks for Digital Currencies and Blockchain” on July 30, 2019, at 10 a.m. EST. A watershed moment for the cryptocurrency space, this is the first time a congressional committee has devoted a hearing solely to the topic of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.
Witnesses to appear will include Jeremy Allaire, co-founder and CEO of Poloniex’s parent company, Circle, who will also be testifying on behalf of The Blockchain Association; Rebecca Nelson, a specialist in international trade and finance for the Congressional Research Service; and Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
Curiously, the only witness with clear expertise in the cryptocurrency industry is Allaire, whose company was the first ever to receive a coveted New York BitLicense in 2015. Nelson’s focus on “international economic issues,” according to her LinkedIn, runs the gamut from International Monetary Fund reforms to the European debt crisis. Baradaran’s work closely examines the politics and sociology of race as it relates to money.
During last week’s Libra hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives, Coinshares Managing Director of U.S. Operations Meltem Demirors acted as the Bitcoin industry’s de facto mouthpiece before legislators. Her testimony served as a salient reminder to Congress that Bitcoin and Libra are as similar (and compatible) as oil and water.
“Bitcoin is a technology … a network … and a cryptocurrency. The technology is not regulated. Much like the internet, it could be considered a public good … Libra is not like bitcoin,” Demirors said.
“It is inevitable that the Bitcoin ecosystem will continue to move forward,” she continued during the hearing’s experts panel. “The question is, where?”
Some congressional members, like Representative Patrick McHenry, agreed with Demirors to the point of bullishness. In the hearing, he likened Bitcoin to “an unstoppable force,” asking his peers, “What are American lawmakers going to do to meet the challenges and the opportunities of this new innovation?”
For a legislative body that has been noticeably taciturn on the subject of cryptocurrencies, such comments are encouraging, and next week’s hearing will give the industry a better idea of how favorably (or unfavorably) U.S. lawmakers will act toward Bitcoin and its cohorts in the near future.