Senators reach a bipartisan deal on controversial crypto requirements in the infrastructure bill

August 9, 2021, 6:49 PM UTC

Update, August 9, 2021: The change to the bill has been blocked by the Senate.

A bipartisan group of senators struck a compromise on a cryptocurrency reporting requirement in the $550 billion infrastructure bill with backing from the Biden administration, but it’s not yet clear it will get a vote.

The Senate hasn’t been able to agree on amending the legislation, which would require consent of all 100 senators. If they don’t do so on Monday the bill would retain the original language dealing with cryptocurrency that has been strongly opposed by the industry and investors.

Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Kyrsten Sinema teamed up with Republican Senators Cynthia Lummis, Pat Toomey, and Rob Portman to strike the deal. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen endorsed the compromise, saying in a statement that it “will make meaningful progress on tax evasion in the cryptocurrency market.”

Toomey said the proposal would clarify rules on who is a broker for cryptocurrency and ensure that it wouldn’t sweep in software developers, cryptocurrency transaction validators, node operators, or other non-brokers.

“We came together to provide greater clarity on the rules for who are the actual brokers of a cryptocurrency,” he said at a news conference. “We’re not proposing anything sweeping or anything radical.”

Notably absent from the announcement of the agreement was Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who had proposed a different version of the amendment.

“We’ve been working hard to get a deal,” Wyden tweeted on Monday. “I don’t believe the cryptocurrency amendment language on offer is good enough to protect privacy and security, but it’s certainly better than the underlying bill.”

The deal resolves a days-long standoff over how to best word a provision in the infrastructure bill that would require cryptocurrency brokers to report transactions to the Internal Revenue Service, a provision that would raise an estimated $28 billion to offset some of the investment in roads and bridges.

The original language in the bill has been criticized by cryptocurrency investors and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for being overly broad and requiring some crypto-related businesses—like miners or software developers—to report to tax collectors data that they don’t have access to. Dorsey called the compromise an improvement.

The Blockchain Association, a Washington-based trade group, backed the compromise announced by Portman and Lummis. The group’s executive director, Kristin Smith, said in a statement that while the deal “leaves work to be done, the Blockchain Association fully supports this improvement to the original language.”

Lummis said the industry’s mobilization on social media over the issue allowed its proponents in the Senate to illustrate broad interest in digital assets.

“In some ways regardless of how this turns out it’s been a very positive exercise,” she said, adding that Congress and federal regulators likely will have to revisit cryptocurrency rules in the near future.

Portman, who led the drafting of the infrastructure bill said in an interview with CNBC Monday that there are other ways—including clarification from the Treasury Department—that could resolve the crypto debate if the bill cannot be revised before it is passed.

The legislation still has to clear the House, which can make changes in whatever ultimately passes the Senate this week. That could give lawmakers another chance to modify the provision if the Senate doesn’t act on the amendment.

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