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Congress now has a bitcoin caucus

Casinos' willingness to accept bitcoins has made Las Vegas a hotspot for the digital currency.
Casinos' willingness to accept bitcoins has made Las Vegas a hotspot for the digital currency. McClatchy

Congress now has a caucus dedicated to shaping policies on cryptocurrency - and educating lawmakers about what it is.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., launched the bipartisan Blockchain Caucus on Monday to help their colleagues stay up to speed on rapidly evolving digital currency and blockchain technologies and develop policies that advance them.

“Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the financial services industry, the U.S. economy, and the delivery of government services, and I am proud to be involved with this initiative on the ground floor,” Mulvaney said in a statement. The South Carolina Republican is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.

Blockchain is a vast public ledger which records every transaction of the digital currency Bitcoin and stores it in a global network so it can’t be interfered with. It’s constantly growing as more blocks with new recordings are added to it.

Mulvaney and Polis are also working with the Coin Center, a Washington-based nonprofit that focuses on digital currency technology, to help Congress understand how it all works.

"For the past two years we have worked with Representatives Mulvaney and Polis to educate their colleagues through briefings and other events, and the new Congressional Blockchain Caucus will be a wonderful new platform to continue these efforts," said Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center. "Their forward-thinking leadership on blockchain technology in Congress is unmatched."

The Coin Center believes in charting “a path forward with the same type of light-touch regulation from which the early Internet benefited just a few decades ago," Brito said.

"The blockchain has boundless potential," Polis said in a statement on Monday. "From cryptocurrencies to supply chains to banking to property titling, blockchain-based solutions have the ability to decentralize cybersecurity and revolutionize many industries.”

Polis has been a longtime advocate for digital currency. In 2014 he became the first member of Congress to accept campaign donations via Bitcoin, and vowed to fight any policy that restricted the adoption and growth of using the technology.

“It's vital for Americans, businesses, and members of Congress to learn about blockchain technology so the U.S. can continue to secure its stance as the global leader of ingenuity,” Polis said.

From startups to large corporations, interest in blockchain and digital currency has skyrocketed in recent years. Sweden is currently testing out a new land registry that uses blockchain, and the European Parliament voted to allow a more hands-off approach when it comes to regulating blockchain technology, as many startups begin to experiment with its various uses. By January of this year, Bank of America had submitted 35 blockchain-related patents. Similarly, a team of four of the world’s biggest banks, led by Swiss bank UBS, is developing a system that would allow financial markets to make payments and settle transactions using blockchain.

Mulvaney on Monday encouraged members of Congress to learn about cryptocurrency and “get involved as blockchain technology becomes more widely used across communities and companies."

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that declares their support for financial technology innovation.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen