Scoop: Senator Hawley enters the AI chat
Why it matters: The issue represents a rare opportunity for Congress to try to tackle a major issue in a bipartisan way as lawmakers display growing interest in legislation to govern AI.
- Hawley, a right-wing populist who is ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, has enjoyed unusual alignment with liberal Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the subcommittee chair.
The details: Hawley is unveiling, and circulating to colleagues, a framework for AI legislation focused on corporate guardrails. The five principles in the outline, according to a document viewed by Axios, are:
- Creating a legal avenue for individuals to sue companies over harm caused by AI models.
- Imposing stiff fines for AI models collecting sensitive personal data without consent.
- Restricting companies from making AI technology available to children or advertising it to them.
- Banning the import of AI-related technology from China and prohibiting American companies from assisting China's development of AI.
- Requiring licenses to create generative AI models.
What he's saying: Any AI legislation, Hawley told Axios in an interview, is "going to need to need to move through the Judiciary Committee, it's going to need to move through our [sub]committee."
- "Looking at different pieces of this is going to be important, and so that's why I think we absolutely need to make sure that individuals have real power here," he said, noting the power of AI will likely be "in the hands of corporations and governments."
- Hawley argued Congress should "move with all deliberate speed" before development of the powerful technology — along with potential industry efforts to oppose new rules — puts effective government action out of reach.
- "I think it's time to start moving toward legislation, and ... finding areas where we can agree on," he said, expressing optimism that bipartisan consensus is possible.
The big picture: Hawley is the latest in a series of lawmakers in both parties trying to put their imprint on what could be sprawling bipartisan regulatory legislation.
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) have formed a working group to explore potential legislation.
- Several House members have also introduced legislation they hope will either pass individually or be grafted onto a broader package — most recently, Rep. Ritchie Torres' (D-N.Y.) bill to require a disclaimer on generative AI outputs.
Yes, but: Similar efforts to regulate social media with a private right of action, consent rules for personal data, and age limits have so far failed under the weight of aggressive lobbying campaigns.
- Hawley said he is "very concerned" about a repeat of that dynamic: "I think that's absolutely where we're headed ... where these very powerful, very rich, very influential corporations will begin to circle the wagons."
- He also pointed to the lack of social media legislation under Schumer, calling the majority leader's interest in AI "encouraging" for getting a bill on the floor, but "skepticism is merited given his track record."
- Unlike with the push for social media regulations, Schumer plans to release his own AI legislation.
What we're watching: Hawley signaled more to come with Blumenthal, telling Axios: "I would look for some significant, bipartisan action from the two of us soon."
- They previously held a high-profile hearing with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman last month.