Push to Enhance CFTC’s Crypto Watchdog Role Gets a Boost in US Congress

Congress’ attempt to make the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) the primary U.S. cryptocurrency regulator took a procedural step forward on Thursday, with a House lawmaker introducing a bill supporting a parallel effort in the Senate.

The Senate legislation – introduced in August by leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and its senior Republican, John Boozman (R-Ark.) – is a relatively narrow effort to install the CFTC as a leading agency to oversee digital assets trading and to exercise new authority over crypto spot markets. Now, that effort has been joined in the House, shepherded by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee and also the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“It is essential that we have robust oversight and regulation so that we may provide strong customer protections,” said Maloney, who introduced the bill along with Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands who is also on the committee.

The Stabenow-Boozman bill has already been through a hearing in their committee last week, and when the lawmakers introduced it, they underlined how serious they were about trying to get the bill across the finish line. To that end, they focused the language in such a way that it could be done in their single committee, though that decision limited them from making more comprehensive decisions about defining distinctions between crypto commodities and securities.

It’s unclear whether the Senate legislation will have enough runway in this dwindling congressional session to get to an overall floor vote, and Maloney’s bill would similarly need approval from the House Agriculture Committee and the overall House before the bills can unite and face White House consideration. The advantage of having matching bills in both chambers is that it could streamline the process and get to the president’s desk more quickly if they win support in the Senate and House.

The House has already had a similar bill from Republicans on its agriculture committee, the Digital Commodity Exchange Act, but it hasn’t budged in months.

While lawmakers debate their approach, CFTC Chair Rostin Behnam is already preparing his agency to become a top crypto regulator, getting his staff organized as the “right regulator” for the industry. The agency would get a flood of new funding through industry fees authorized in the legislation, and Behnam said it would cost the CFTC $112 million in the first three years to get up to speed.