Energy and Commerce Committee Clears U.S. Blockchain Development Legislation, Congressman Discusses Plans for Blockchain Office in Commerce Department

Congress is making progress in establishing U.S. leadership in blockchain innovation. Last week, at a markup held by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), Co-Chair of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, revealed he is working towards establishing within the Department of Commerce a Blockchain Center for Excellence, an office presumably dedicated to advancing blockchain innovation in U.S. commerce.  The Committee on Energy and Commerce also passed two bills promoting U.S. competitiveness in blockchain technology, marking a shift in how Congress is looking at U.S. blockchain development. The Chamber celebrates these milestones as a step towards building a national strategy to advance U.S. competitiveness in blockchain technology development. Almost two years ago, the Chamber called for a National Action Plan for Blockchain, proposing that the United States government approach blockchain technology with clearly articulated support to encourage private sector development and innovation, so we are pleased to see this legislation will be considered by the House.

The Blockchain Center of Excellence

The United States needs a coordinated approach to be a leader in the adoption and promotion of blockchain technology, and an office housed within the Department of Commerce could serve as a facilitator between the public and private sectors. Establishing an office to promote  U.S. blockchain innovation is a cornerstone of our National Action Plan for Blockchain, and we look forward to working with Congressman Soto to share our perspectives on how this office can support blockchain companies innovating in the United States and attract innovators who have relocated to more predictable legal environments overseas.

Legislation Supporting U.S. Blockchain Development

The Committee passed H.R. 8132: The American COMPETE Act, which calls for a national strategy on U.S. blockchain development and legislative recommendations to expedite blockchain technology adoption in the United States. As we’ve said before, the potential promise of blockchain technology will not be realized in the United States without the widespread support of policymakers. The Committee also passed an amended version of H.R. 8128: AI for Consumer Product Safety Act, incorporating two bills previously introduced by Rep. Soto: H.R. 8153, the Blockchain Innovation Act, and H.R. 2154, the Digital Taxonomy Act. In addition to establishing a pilot program to test the use of artificial intelligence in consumer product safety, the legislation now calls for a study to examine how blockchain can be used to protect consumers and an annual report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on fraudulent actions related to digital tokens. Notably, the legislation requires an assessment by the Department of Commerce of federal regulations where greater regulatory clarity is needed to promote blockchain innovation in the United States.  This, of course, is an issue that greatly impacts many in our industry, and we encourage those agencies to look to industry for important feedback on these issues.

It’s a significant development that Members of Congress are championing the key components of our National Action Plan for Blockchain, and it will be important for the United States to maintain its stature as the premier location for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Bill summaries for the American COMPETE Act, Blockchain Innovation Act, and Digital Taxonomy Act are available below.

H.R. 8132: The American COMPETE Act

  • The American COMPETE Act is a package of legislation that focuses on U.S. competitiveness in AI, Internet of Things (IoT) in manufacturing, quantum computing, blockchain, new and advanced materials, unmanned delivery services, IoT, 3D printing, and use of AI in combating online harms.
  • The Study to Advance Blockchain Technology directs the Secretary of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission to conduct a survey on the blockchain industry and potential risks and submit a report to Congress on its findings.
  • The study focuses on two primary areas: 1) industry use and adoption; and 2) blockchain marketplace/supply chain risks.
  • The study must be completed within 1 year of the bill’s passage, and the report must be submitted to the House and Senate Commerce Committees 6 months following the study’s completion.

H.R. 8153: Blockchain Innovation Act

  • Directs the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to study and report to Congress on the use of blockchain technology in commerce and its benefits in preventing fraud.
  • The study focuses on several areas: 1) commercial activity and investment; 2) fostering public-private partnerships; 3) the benefits and challenges of using blockchain technology for consumer protection, including preventing fraud and securing transactions; 4) areas in federal regulation where greater clarity is needed to promote innovation in the United States; and 5) additional observations and policy recommendations.
  • The study also includes a public comment period to collect feedback from industry.
  • The report must be submitted within 6 months of the study’s completion to House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce Committees and made available to the public through the Department of Commerce’s website.

H.R. 2154: Digital Taxonomy Act (Amended Version Incorporated within H.R. 8128)

  • Directs the FTC to report to Congress annually on actions related to consumer protection and digital tokens.
  • The FTC must report on regulatory actions and other efforts related to digital tokens and consumer protection through its authority to prevent unfair or deceptive acts or practices (UDAP) as well as legislative recommendations.