In a Sunday appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Montana farmer and teacher turned U.S. Senator Jon Tester told host Chuck Todd that cryptocurrency has "not been able to pass the smell test for me."
The Democratic senator, who serves on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, was invited on the program to discuss the defection of former Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
"You used some colorful language to describe crypto," Todd asked as the segment drew to a close. "Should the government be regulating it or banning it?"
"One or the other," Tester replied.
"I have not been able to find anybody who's been able to explain to me what's there other than synthetics—which means nothing," he continued. "The problem is... if we regulated it, it may give it the ability of people to think it's real."
"I'm not a regulator and I'm not a financial person that does regulation," Tester disclaimed, but concluded his thoughts on crypto by saying, "I see no reason why this stuff should exist. I really don't."
While Tester says he's not a regulator, his role on the Senate banking committee means he has influence as part of one of the key decision making bodies currently debating how—if not whether—to regulate the currently beleaguered crypto industry.
"Senator Tester brings a rural perspective to this committee to make sure that laws and policies work for small banks, credit unions, small businesses and consumers in rural America," his website reads.
Sen. Tester has not been shy about his distaste for crypto, telling Semafor last week, "It's all bullshit."
In the wake of the U.S. Midterm elections, meanwhile, Democratic senators regrouped on the banking committee agenda. According to a Roll Call report, party leaders were skeptical of the proposed Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act (DCCPA), which would make the CFTC—rather than the Securities and Exchange Commission or other agencies—the primary authority for U.S. crypto regulation.
Also known as the Stabenow-Boozman bill, the move to empower CFTC was notably supported by Sam Bankman-Fried, who has since become an international pariah as his FTX exchange and Alameda Research trading firm collapsed spectacularly.
According to Roll Call, Sen. Tester warned against giving cryptocurrency additional legitimacy, and objected to the fact that the Stabenow-Boozman bill was introduced in the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, where Republican Arkansas Sen. John Boozman serves as ranking member.
"It needs to be done in this committee, not [agriculture], so CFTC is a ‘no,’" Tester said.
In 2019, Sen. Tester was also a leading critic of Libra, Facebook's failed cryptocurrency initiative. At the time, he compared the threat of inadequate controls in crypto to the 2008 financial crisis.
"In 2008 there was a run on the banks, there were some big companies that went belly up, including 157 banks, Lehman Brothers, WAMU, Bear Sterns, and others," he said at the time. "Nobody anticipated that there was going to be a run like this, nobody."
He questioned whether Facebook could prevent a similar collapse.
"I still felt confident my money was safe [in 2008]," he said. "How can you assure us, how can we be assured, that our money is going to be there?"
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