A new Senate bill would give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission authority over the markets for bitcoin and ether, the two largest cryptocurrencies.
The bill is the latest attempt in Washington to set more clear federal rules for digital assets. It was introduced Wednesday by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, and Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas.
The CFTC and Securities and Exchange Commission have been battling for position in overseeing cryptocurrencies; tension heightened recently when the SEC declared a list of crypto tokens as securities within an insider trading complaint — prompting a public rebuke from Caroline Pham, a CFTC commissioner.
The new bill could provide some level of clarity. It would give the CFTC direct oversight of tokens that qualify as "digital commodities." That includes bitcoin and ether, according to a bill summary.
Online exchanges and other services that facilitate trading of the tokens would be required to register with the CFTC.
“One in five Americans have used or traded digital assets — but these markets lack the transparency and accountability that they expect from our financial system. Too often, this puts Americans’ hard-earned money at risk,” said Stabenow, who is chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the CFTC.
The bill would also require the CFTC to ensure crypto firms prevent abusive trading practices, maintain sufficient financial resources and have strong cybersecurity protections, among other consumer protection measures.
The bill further "recognizes that other financial agencies have a role in regulating digital assets that are not commodities, but function more like securities or forms of payment."
The focus on ether and bitcoin as commodities fits with views of SEC Chair Gary Gensler, who has said he views most other tokens as likely to be securities.
A wider crypto regulation bill proposed in June by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cynthia Lummis also contemplates a leading role for the CFTC in regulating crypto. Gillibrand and Lummis acknowledged recently that the full legislative package would be unlikely to pass this year, but that some items, including those clarifying the CFTC's role, could move through Senate committees.