Many lawmakers in Congress still might not understand what bitcoin is, but next week they’ll at least be able to get their digital hands on it.
Thanks to some assistance from Rep. Jared Polis, Robocoin — a company that builds ATMs for the virtual currencies — will set up an informational kiosk in a congressional office building on Tuesday. The move comes amid growing concerns about how, or if, government should regulate the budding alternative payment market that exists only in computers.
“Come see a Robocoin demo, hear a brief bitcoin talk from Congressman Jared Polis, try buying bitcoin yourself, and ask your burning bitcoin questions,” the invitation sent out to members of Congress reads. “Welcome to the future of anti-fraud, anti-identify theft, and anti-money laundering — this is customer protection built for the 21st century.”
Bitcoin and other digital currencies like it can be exchanged for traditional dollars or spent at participating online vendors and some real-world retailers. Its supporters view it as a quick and innovative form of payment that ducks some of the fees commonly associated with online transactions, while its critics view it as a province of anonymous actors with nefarious intent, such as money laundering or drug trafficking.
Polis, a Colorado Democrat, has recently become an outspoken ally of bitcoin, and an aide in his office confirmed that the event was largely meant to serve as “exposure for lawmakers who are still learning about bitcoin.”
Last month, Polis jokingly called for a ban on the U.S. dollar last month in response to a letter Sen. Joe Manchin sent to financial regulators asking them to ban the digital currency.
“The exchange of dollar bills, including high-denomination bills, is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly subject to forgery, theft, and loss,” Polis said.
Manchin has since come around somewhat on bitcoin, but lingering questions about bitcoin’s volatility and feasibility persist. The IRS issued tax guidance last week that qualified bitcoin not as a currency but as property, a decision that earned mixed reviews.
The recent collapse of Japanese-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, which led to the quixotic disappearance of a chunk of bitcoin valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, has made some investors more skittish.
Bitcoin’s popularity has exploded in the past year, as its usage increased by more than 75 percent between July and December 2013. The fervency of its early adopters and growing market value has led many investors and businesses, such as the Sacramento Kings and Overstock.com, to allow bitcoin as a method of payment.
The event next week is scheduled for Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building. It follows a hearing on bitcoin being held Wednesday by the House Small Business Committee, the first in the lower chamber on the topic. Late last year, the Senate convened two hearings probing the risks and opportunities associated with virtual currencies.
What We're Following See More »
"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
Alexander Acosta was confirmed Thursday night as Labor secretary, officially filling out President Trump's cabinet on day 98 of his presidency. Nine Democrats joined every present Republican in voting to approve Acosta, with the final tally at 60-38. Trump's first choice for Labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination after taking criticism for hiring undocumented workers and for other matters in his personal life.
"Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) plans to introduce legislation today designed to help federal agencies update their aging technology—and this time, it has White House backing. Hurd worked alongside White House Office of American Innovation officials Reed Cordish and Chris Liddell in crafting and tweaking the legislation, and called their partnership an 'invaluable' part of the process."