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Senate AI working group report update

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Senate AI working group's report likely will come out in May as the chamber faces a tight spring calendar and senators jockey to include different priorities.

Why it matters: Passing AI legislation will require broad, bipartisan support, and the timeline is getting tougher.

  • The new wrinkle of a bipartisan, bicameral privacy bill that many are hoping is the baseline for any AI legislation adds complexity to the tech policy landscape on Capitol Hill.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to release an AI report soon that draws on the lessons of last year's AI Insight Forums and offers a roadmap for committees to legislate.

  • Sources said the report has either been finished or is nearly finished, and some were expecting it to come earlier.
  • Sen. Mike Rounds, one of the lawmakers Schumer tapped to lead the bipartisan AI forums, had told Axios the group would release it as early as March.
  • But the Senate's schedule is packed the next couple of weeks, and another recess is coming up.

Schumer spokesperson Allison Biasotti said the majority leader is "proud" of ongoing committee-level work.

  • "As laid out from the beginning, Schumer — along with Sens. Rounds, [Todd] Young and [Martin] Heinrich — has sought to use the AI Insight Forums and the forthcoming policy roadmap to help stoke legislative consensus and supplement the traditional committee process."

Behind the scenes: Sources inside and outside Capitol Hill told Axios some senators are dissatisfied with how the process has unfolded.

  • Senators have taken issue with not being able to ask questions during the forums and with the fact that they were held behind closed doors.
  • Some Senate staffers told Axios they had expected their members on relevant AI committees to have more transparency into the report.

What they're saying: "Basically everyone who isn't Schumer, Young, Rounds and Heinrich is less than pleased with the entire process," one source said.

  • "There's a sense among a lot of the folks in the different committees that there's a little bit of bogarting of territory here."
  • Sen. Ed Markey's office told Axios they've detailed his AI priorities to Schumer's office and that committees will keep moving forward on AI legislation.

How it works: Although AI touches nearly all facets of society, the most relevant committees are Commerce, Intelligence, Homeland Security and Judiciary.

  • Ultimately, it's Schumer's call when the report comes out and what goes in it.

Friction point: Committees want to get going on AI work as soon as possible.

  • One Senate staffer told Axios that frustration is growing among members of pertinent committees that the report isn't out yet: "Congress is pretty educated on the AI issues.… It seems like a green light that is being delayed when the committees have a clear sense of what their jurisdictions can tackle."
  • Any delay in the process eats up time to hold AI hearings or put bills on the floor, the staffer said, which is especially concerning because other countries move quickly on AI.

Our thought bubble: Schumer wants AI legislation to replicate how the CHIPS Act came together, in a bipartisan way from the beginning.

  • But AI is more likely to fracture senators, who each have their own take because the technology could affect so many aspects of life.
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