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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A proposal for $100 billion in new funding for fundamental AI research is circulating Congress with bipartisan support, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

Why it matters: Without a big increase in money for AI research, experts say, the U.S. is liable to fall behind fast-moving adversaries like China on critical emerging tech.

The big picture: The White House has hammered the need to stay ahead of competitors. But researchers say doing so will require far more funding than the roughly $1 billion currently earmarked for non-defense AI development annually.

  • By contrast, Shanghai's city government alone plans to invest $15 billion in AI over the next 10 years. (Total Chinese government funding numbers are hard to come by.)

What's happening: Speaking at a conference arranged by the National Security Commission on AI, Schumer announced a "discussion draft" circulating in Congress and among companies.

  • According to Schumer, the proposal would put $100 billion toward AI over the course of five years.
  • It would also create a new agency under the National Science Foundation focused on emerging technology, which would work closely with DARPA, an agency that funds defense-related research.
  • The new money would go toward universities, companies and defense agencies.

What they're saying: "We will do better dollar for dollar than the Chinese government in investing in AI," Schumer said. "But if they outspend us three, four, five to one — which they're doing now — we'll fall behind in five years or 10 years and we will rue the day."

  • "This should not be a partisan issue," he added. "This is about the future of America."
  • Schumer called on the conference attendees, which included some top Pentagon officials and Big Tech bigwigs, to push the proposal along.
  • Despite wide support, he said the proposal does not have the "full-throated support" of President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.

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