Congress stock trading ban could also cover cryptocurrencies: sources

There’s growing momentum on Capitol Hill for bills that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks — but the legislation would also likely apply to cryptocurrencies, The Post has learned.

A forthcoming bill from Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would bar members of Congress from owning or trading individual commodities, stocks or other securities that could produce conflicts of interest, a source familiar with the legislation said.

Regulators are still debating how to classify cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum, but there’s a general consensus in the US that they are either commodities or securities.

Therefore, even though the Warren-Daines bill doesn’t mention cryptocurrencies by name, it’s highly likely that its passage would force members of Congress who own cryptocurrencies to sell of their stakes in order to comply.

Currently, three members of the US Senate have reported owning cryptocurrencies — Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.). In the House, Reps. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), Mark Green (R-Tenn.) and Barry Moore (R-Ala.) and others have also personally traded cryptocurrencies or reported their immediate families doing so, according to financial disclosures.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas bought up to $50,000 in bitcoin this January, according to financial disclosures.
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Critics argue that members of Congress shouldn’t be allowed to trade cryptocurrencies while they consider bills that could impact the $2 trillion crypto market — just like they say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband shouldn’t make millions trading shares of the Big Tech firms she regulates.

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“Congress is obviously going to have to act in the crypto space — or decide that they’re not going to,” Kia Hamadanchy, a senior government affairs associate with left-wing group the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, told The Post. “It’s hard to say that people aren’t going to have a financial interest in that.”

While the Warren-Daines bill is far from being passed, it appears to be gaining steam, with Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) signing on in recent days and a companion House bill in the works from Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), sources said.

Steve Daines
Montana Sen. Steve Daines (left) is co-sponsoring legislation alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren that could ban members of Congress from trading cryptocurrencies.
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Similarly to the Warren-Daines bill, legislation introduced last month by Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) with the backing of eight other Senate Democrats would also ban members of Congress from trading securities and commodities — categories that would again likely include cryptocurrencies.

But unlike the Warren-Daines bill, the Ossoff-Kelly bill would allow Senators to put their assets in a blind trust while in office and then assume control of them afterward, rather than requiring them to sell off the assets altogether.

Congressional leaders including Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have all signaled support for legislation banning stock trading — although none have endorsed any particular bill and Pelosi has shown little enthusiasm for the effort.

Critics say members of Congress shouldn’t be allowed to trade cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as they decide how to regulate the industry.
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A final bill able to gather 60 votes in the Senate would likely be a consolidation of the Warren-Daines bill, the Ossoff-Kelly bill and other proposals, a source familiar with Senate negotiations said.

As Senators debate how to combine the proposals, cryptocurrency trading is on the table but there is no clear consensus on whether it should be banned, the source said.

Other points of negotiation include whether the ban should also cover trading by members of Congress’ spouses, immediate families or staff members. A ban on trading by spouses may have to be jettisoned in order to garner GOP support, sources said.

Cynthia Lummis
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) has reported owning cryptocurrencies.
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