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Bipartisan Senate group releases sweeping AI report

Senators Heinrich, Schumer, Young and Rounds speaking to reporters in the Capitol

Schumer, Young, Heinrich and Rounds on Nov. 1, 2023. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled a sweeping report Wednesday detailing how Congress should regulate AI, capping off a nearly year-long effort.

The big picture: Getting AI bills passed before the end of the year is a bipartisan goal, but time is running out with limited opportunities for floor action and the election looming.

  • Any change in administration or congressional makeup could derail the report's goals.

Driving the news: The "roadmap" — which Sens. Martin Heinrich, Mike Rounds and Todd Young helped write — is meant to inform bills, keep the U.S. competitive on AI and help people see benefits of the technology.

  • Schumer told reporters Tuesday night he plans to meet with House Speaker Mike Johnson to start working together.

State of play: Schumer said he does not plan to pursue a big AI legislative package, but rather individual bills as they gain momentum. That's in line with what House lawmakers say they want.

  • Schumer: "We're not going to wait on legislation that addresses every aspect of AI and society... In other words, if some areas are ready earlier than others, they should go forward."
  • Election-related bills are top priority, he added.

What's inside: One goal of the report is to "reach as soon as possible" $32 billion a year for non-defense AI work, a spending level proposed by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

  • All four senators agreed they would have to convince their colleagues of the importance of allocating so much money in an election year.
  • "This is a time in which the dollars we put into this particular investment will pay dividends for the taxpayers of this country long term," said Rounds.

Policy priorities outlined in the report include:

  • Increasing funding for AI research and development, including fully funding the CHIPS and Science Act.
  • Tackling challenges related to election content and deepfakes.
  • Examining legislation to improve the U.S. immigration system for high-skilled STEM workers.
  • Passing a comprehensive data privacy bill, though Schumer declined to specifically endorse the leading proposal, The American Privacy Rights Act.

The report gives a nod to specific bills, or parts of them, including:

Reality check: Republicans are likely to clash with Democrats on legislative priorities as signaled by Johnson. The speaker recently said the Biden administration is getting it wrong by trying to regulate AI too closely, which could stifle innovation.

Flashback: Last fall, Schumer began holding a series of AI Insight Forums, gathering experts for closed-door meetings with lawmakers to discuss all aspects of AI from workforce disruption to future threats to humanity.

What we're watching: Committees are set to start marking up AI bills immediately, and plenty of disagreements are sure to spill out.

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