Federal regulators and law enforcement agencies don't need new laws to tamp down on the more seedy uses of bitcoin and other virtual currencies, Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., told CNBC on Tuesday.
"They've told us right now that we don't need more legislation," Carper said on "Squawk on the Street." "They think they have the powers they need to go after the bad stuff."
Carper, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman, told CNBC that federal agencies, from the IRS to the FBI, have assured him that they can police illicit uses of cryptocurrencies, such as money laundering or drug trafficking, through the country's current legal framework.
He likened virtual currencies to the beginning of the Internet, when the "early message on the Internet was lets not kill the baby in the cradle," Carper said.
"We know there's some bad stuff that can happen through the use of virtual currencies like bitcoin, but we also know that some good things could happen," Carper said. "It can enhance transactions between buyers and sellers. It can actually help Internet and national trade."
The senator's comments come several weeks after his committee held a hearing on virtual currencies such as bitcoin, introducing the new type of digital payments to the mainstream.
Since then, the U.S. has taken a markedly different approach to virtual currencies compared to China, which moved to ban banks from using bitcoin as a currency last month. Instead, U.S. regulators haven't clamped down on virtual currencies, as more and more businesses announced they'll accept the currency.
"I don't know if it will ever become a legitimate mainstream currency," Carper said. "It's not something we should ignore. We do so at our own peril. There are bad things that can happen with these virtual currencies like bitcoin. ... Meanwhile, let's see what kind of good can flow from" them.