House Republicans Make Case on Stablecoin Bill After Democrats Called for Do-Over

Their latest draft legislation sets up shared federal and state oversight and says stablecoins aren’t securities, but it’s uncertain what bipartisan support the effort will find.

AccessTimeIconApr 24, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 24, 2023 at 8:33 p.m. UTC
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Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee are taking another swing at stablecoin legislation with a discussion draft revealed Monday afternoon, which may mark a new starting point for negotiations with Democrats.

The bill – the second legislative concept published in as many weeks – would create a definition of “payment stablecoins,” specifying what types of entities could issue them and define how these companies should handle reserves.

Unlike a previous version of the bill, which was published on the committee’s website ahead of a hearing on stablecoins last week, the new version leaves out algorithmic stablecoins, although it does repeat clauses stating that an issuer can either be a subsidiary of a federally insured depository institution or a state or federally regulated nonbank company.

The draft bill also makes clear that stablecoins must be fully backed by safe reserves that are subject to monthly reviews by registered accountants, which would eliminate the possibility of math-backed stablecoins being able to comply.

It also declares that stablecoins are not securities, settling a controversial point in the ongoing debate over whether tokens are securities or commodities, which decides which agency will oversee their trading – the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The SEC had recently warned stablecoin issuer Paxos that it may face an enforcement action, asserting Binance USD is an unregistered security.

It’s unlikely this bill will have the immediate bipartisan support it needs to become a law. During last week’s hearing, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the senior-most Democrat on the committee, said the legislative body should be “starting from scratch.” She expressed frustration the Republicans had gone ahead and worked on this draft without Democratic input.

A senior Republican staff member said a copy of this draft was provided to Waters’ staff, and the Republicans hope it’ll start a new negotiation.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, has not committed to any action on stablecoin legislation, only saying through a spokesperson that he would “look at” the different efforts being put together. Any stablecoin bill will also have to pass through his committee.

One of the most hotly debated points of the legislation since last year has been how much authority is given to the federal and state regulators. This version would make a lane for state-based licensing for issuers and maintain the state’s enforcement powers, but it also provides that an enforcement disagreement could be overruled by the Federal Reserve.

In addition, the proposed legislation would put issuers’ chief executives on the hook for putting out faulty information on a stablecoin’s reserves, calling for them to sign off on the monthly numbers and making them criminally liable if the reports are known to be false.

Rep. Patrick McHenry’s (R-N.C.) financial services committee is separately working on legislation to regulate market structure in the crypto sector, the staffer said, and that bill is expected to address key industry questions about which agencies will have what roles overseeing digital assets. One of the panel’s subcommittees scheduled a hearing on the topic for Thursday, April 27.

Edited by Nikhilesh De.


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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.

Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.

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