Senate AI co-chair says action this year unlikely 

A co-chair of the Senate’s Artificial Intelligence Caucus said Tuesday that while some members of Congress would like to see AI regulation passed by the end of this year, that timeline is unlikely. 

“I would like to have something that we can pass in this congress,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D- N.M.) told Leigh Ann Caldwell on Washington Post Live. “Some people have said by the end of the year. I don’t see things coming together that quickly, but I do think we could see a package in the following year.” 

Heinrich and Mike Rounds (R- S.D.) appeared on the Post’s “Across the Aisle” to discuss Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D.- N.Y.) AI forum on Wednesday, as well as a proposed regulatory framework released earlier this month by Sens. Josh Hawley (R- Mo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.).  

Caldwell asked the AI caucus chairs if they supported some of the provisions in that proposal, such as creating a single regulator for AI, requiring AI companies to apply for licensing and clarifying that tech liability shields will not protect AI companies from lawsuits.  

Heinrich and Rounds said they would take the ideas into consideration, but that relevant committees would ultimately take the lead in deciding on the direction of future legislation.  

“They are coming up with an interesting concept… but the folks [in committees] develop expertise about specific items in their industry or in their profession,” said Rounds. “We [AI Caucus] are saying we want the committees to do the work and the committees to come up with the ideas because it really is a matter of how AI is integrated into their basic business activities that they normally would regulate.” 

Heinrich largely agreed with Rounds.  

“I don’t disagree with Senator Rounds’s characterization of this,” Heinrich said. “What we have to recognize is that individual committees are going to have individual jurisdictions that touch this space, and we should recognize that, respect that. We are going to have to seam these things together that is respectful of the existing authorities and jurisdictions, and then we are going to have to figure out where the gaps are and try to plug those gaps.” 

The co-chairs sat down with Caldwell ahead of Schumer’s AI forum on Wednesday, which will include tech executives and is open to all members of the Senate — but not to the public or the press. Rounds will be moderating the afternoon session of the forum. 

While the decision to keep the forum a closed-door event has been controversial, the co-chairs said the privacy could make for a more productive conversation between the tech giants and the country’s lawmakers. 

“We’re trying to change the format…to get these folks to share as much information as possible during a structured period of time that they think these decision-makers would be interested in hearing,” said Rounds. 

Heinrich said the forum is important because getting knowledge directly from the tech executives will ultimately allow for better legislation. 

“It’s an effort to make sure that our colleagues are getting information directly from some of these leaders,” Heinrich said. “We want to make sure that all of these folks who have a seat at the table, who have a stake in this, are heard by our colleagues and that we have the best possible information to be able to legislate in this space.” 

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