The Senate bill could open cryptocurrencies to US sanctions, but the industry is trying to avoid it

A provision in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent spending package targets cryptocurrencies’ ties to terrorism and has caught many industry players by surprise, criticizing it as a flawed approach to a worthy goal.

The staff of the panel’s chairman, Senator Mark Warner, has met with people from the digital assets industry to talk about the provision, the sources said.

Crypto industry insiders predict that the effort is unlikely to survive the budget process.

A piece of legislation with heavy implications for the digital assets industry recently passed through the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s funding package without most of the industry – and many in Congress – apparently being aware of it, but insiders Industry workers believe its chances of survival are slim. limited.

A Senate bill intended to finance United States intelligence operations included a section borrowed from a previous bill aimed at preventing the use of cryptocurrency to support terrorism. This provision, as written, could require a massive shift in the cryptocurrency industry toward identifying user identities to prevent sanctions that could strangle digital asset businesses. If it becomes law, it would mark the most significant US cryptocurrency policy ever adopted – and all without significant debate over its merits.

This section of the intelligence funding effort would speed up and automate the process to sanction “facilitators of foreign digital asset transactions” – including cryptocurrency exchanges – that are linked to users who support terrorist groups.

Although the Intelligence Authorization Act cleared the commission with a unanimous vote of 17-0, its cryptocurrency section was not publicly mentioned or listed among the bill’s major provisions when Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va. ), president of the commission, announced the move in a press release. Now, Warner’s office has set up meetings with people in the crypto industry to talk about that section, according to three people familiar with the discussions, and the Digital Chamber, an industry lobbying group, has confirmed he is among those involved in interviews.

The dialogue suggests the issue is still in play as the spending package moves toward broader Senate consideration, potentially within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to pass.

“We have spoken to Warner staff about this and they are open to broader industry involvement,” Cody Carbone, Digital Camera’s chief of police, told CoinDesk in an email. “I think it will probably be eliminated from the NDAA process given the immediate pushback from the industry.”

The House of Representatives may also be unlikely to adopt this type of provision that puts the industry into a strict American box soon after the House passed broader cryptocurrency market structure legislation intended to regulate the industry without stifling it. This was the passage of last month’s Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act (FIT21). a third of House Democrats join in, suggesting that cryptocurrency regulation could have broad bipartisan support across Congress. This reinforced another recent industry success in the Senate in which 11 Democrats voted alongside Republicans to scrap the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accounting policy, despite a promise (and satisfied) President Joe Biden’s veto.

With so many senators sympathetic to the industry, it may be difficult to get illicit finance legislation passed that hasn’t come through an open debate and amendment process. The original bill was supported by Sens. Warner, Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Mike Rounds (R.S.D.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

Too wide?

Language used in the spending bill could implicate a broader range of crypto interests than expected and could include central banks issuing central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and software developers, insiders say, adding that other lawmakers appear to have been unaware of its existence. This could also raise concerns among users of the market-leading stablecoin Tether (USDT). under the control of the United States for the use of its tokens by bad actors.

Warner’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the cryptocurrency provision, nor did the office of Sen. Mark Rubio (R-Fla.), who is vice chair of the Intelligence Committee.

Washington-based representatives from industry lobbying groups have sought to make it clear to policymakers that they are open to discussing legislation to prevent the illicit use of cryptocurrency, as this provision aims to accomplish. Such bills have been widely recognized as necessary to engage Democratic senators in other crypto initiatives aimed at regulating the structure of markets and the issuance of stablecoins.

“Overall, we are in line with the legislation’s goal of cutting funding to foreign terrorist organizations, and I appreciate that it limits coverage to those groups that have ‘knowingly’ facilitated funding to bad actors,” Carbone said, adding that the legislation it is not entirely bad or good. But guidelines for identifying violators and the lack of a system of proportional sanctions – perhaps tiered – could be problematic, he argued, and said that puts too much authority in the hands of the US Treasury Secretary.

The cryptocurrency industry also wants to avoid repeating painful situations Legislative surprise in an infrastructure bill in 2021, which included an 11th-hour provision directing the taxation of cryptocurrencies. Being blindsided by that bill amplified industry interest in funding a greater lobbying presence in Washington that is now weighing in on this intelligence bill.

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