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Schumer meets with bipartisan group of senators to build a coalition for AI law

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Alex Brandon
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with a small bipartisan group of senators to take the next steps toward crafting comprehensive legislation to regulate artificial intelligence.

The group included New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Todd Young, R-Ind. They agreed that the plan must be bipartisan, and they can't take too long to craft the plan, Schumer said.

"Congress must move quickly. Many AI experts have pointed out that the government must have a role in how this technology enters our lives. Even leaders of the industry say they welcome regulation," Schumer said on the Senate floor on Thursday. "So if we are to fulfill our role properly, our approach to AI must be fast-moving. We can't move so fast that we do flawed legislation, but there's no time for waste or delay or sitting back."

The move comes after several congressional panels held hearings this week on AI, including a Senate Judiciary subcommittee meeting with Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT.

Schumer has met with dozens of AI experts and for the last several weeks has been circulating a high-level framework outlining a new regulatory regime for AI.

The plan would allow independent experts to review and test AI technologies ahead of public release and give users access to the results.

It's centered around four guardrails Schumer calls the "who, where, how and protect" with the first three guardrails focused on transparency to give the government information needed to regulate. The final guardrail, to protect, focuses on aligning the systems with American values.

Young said on Thursday the group is at its earliest stages of discussing ideas and sharing notes.

Heinrich called the bipartisan conversation "constructive," and he hopes a plan can come together during this congressional session. Heinrich the group is working to help members get educated, see what AI can do and its risk factors to make a deliberative decision.

"We have to raise the level of understanding of the issues for the entire body, bring in experts, make sure we hear from all sides and start trying to discern what some of the next steps and ... the things that we need to do to make good decisions about how to structure a response to all this," he said.

Schumer said the group hopes they can replicate their success from passing the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act signed into law last year. Schumer and Young worked closely on significant portions of that plan.

"When the Senate passed CHIPS and Science, both sides came together on an issue that impacted the nation, involved a lot of committees, inputs and views — much like AI will," Schumer said. "Because there is so much bipartisan overlap in CHIPS and Science as there is in AI, it makes it a lot easier to do this in a way that brings bipartisan groups together from the very beginning."

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Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.