Proponents of the America Competes Act of 2022, introduced this week in the U.S. House of Representatives, said the legislation would make the U.S. supply chain stronger and help the country's technology industry compete with China. The crypto industry is worried the sector will be collateral damage.
Crypto lobbying groups are worried about a specific provision proposed by Rep. Jim Himes, buried around page 1,482 of the almost-3,000-page bill, that would allow the Treasury Department to bypass certain checks to take “special measures” to surveil, condition or prohibit any transactions deemed of concern to U.S. interests. The provision, titled “Prohibitions or Conditions on Certain Transmittal of Funds,” also expands the department’s authority to include crypto exchanges and transactions.
First introduced in the Patriot Act in 2001, “special measures” can only be imposed through regulation, would require public notice and can only be imposed for up to 120 days. The provision in the Competes Act would strike those limitations. The use of such measures, however, has been historically infrequent.
Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center, outlined his issues with the bill in a lengthy thread on Twitter on Wednesday. The exec of the D.C. crypto think tank warned that the provision would “essentially give the Treasury Secretary unchecked and unilateral power to ban exchanges and other financial institutions from engaging in cryptocurrency transactions.”
The Blockchain Association has also voiced its concerns with the provision and told Protocol that it is working with relevant lawmakers and will continue to advocate for a final bill that will preserve existing limitations on the Treasury's authority.
“Without this due process, many in the crypto industry fear that it could provide a pathway for a misguided crackdown on the use of cryptocurrencies,” the association said in a statement to Protocol.