Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) unveiled a new bipartisan proposal to develop legislation to promote and regulate artificial intelligence. In a speech at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, Leader Schumer remarked: “[W]ith AI, we cannot be ostriches sticking our heads in the sand. The question is: what role [do] Congress and the federal government have in this new revolution? Are we capable of playing a proactive role in promoting AI’s growth? Can Congress work to maximize AI’s benefits, while protecting the American people—and all of humanity— from its novel risks? I think the answer to these questions is an emphatic yes.”
While identifying the challenges associated with AI—job displacement, misinformation, autonomous military systems and weaponry, and election interference—Senator Schumer also noted the important benefits AI can deliver to society, including fighting disease, tackling hunger, enriching our minds, managing our lives, and ensuring peace. He affirmed that this “world-altering” technology is here to stay, leaving the United States with “no choice” but to join the AI revolution. Senator Schumer proposed a plan to boost U.S. global competitiveness through AI while ensuring appropriate protections. The proposal has two key components, one substantive and one procedural: (1) the SAFE Innovation Framework for AI Policy; and (2) a new legislative process that will include AI Insight Forums.
(1) SAFE Innovation Framework for AI Policy
Senator Schumer explained that Congress needs a framework for legislative action on AI. He announced the five key policy objectives of his SAFE Innovation Framework, which aim to encourage domestic AI innovation while ensuring adequate guardrails are in place to protect national security, democracy, and the public.
- Security. Legislative action on AI must protect national security and promote economic security for workers by addressing the threat of job displacement.
- Accountability. The United States must ensure the deployment of transparent and responsible systems and impose liability against individuals or groups that violate guardrails by promoting misinformation, engaging in bias, or violating intellectual property rights.
- Foundations. Congress must support the development of algorithms and the implementation of AI guardrails that promote America’s foundations, including liberty, civil rights, and justice. Without taking action to preserve these foundations, Senator Schumer stated that “we risk the survival of our democracy.”
- Explainability. Congress must design regulations that require certain limited disclosures from AI developers to educate the public about AI systems, data, and content.
- Innovation. Innovation must be the “north star” of America’s policy response to AI. Congress must develop regulations that encourage—rather than stifle—innovation to ensure that the United States remains the global leader in advanced technologies.
(2) Legislative Procedure
Senator Schumer called for a new procedural approach to translate these policy objectives into legislation that can meet AI’s evolving complexities. As part of this new approach, Senator Schumer announced that he will convene a series of AI Insight Forums this fall, beginning as early as September. Senator Schumer will invite the top minds on AI, including industry leaders, interest groups, AI developers, and other stakeholders, to Congress to debate the key issues and forge consensus on the path ahead. He indicated that this work will not and cannot replace current congressional activity—like Committee hearings—but suggested that more traditional actions alone are insufficient to create the “right policies.” Senator Schumer reiterated that the United States needs an “all-of-the-above approach” to address the AI revolution.
Key Observations & Looking Ahead
- Senator Schumer stressed the importance of bipartisanship throughout this process because “the changes AI brings do not discriminate against the left, right, or center.” He encouraged congressional leaders to reach across the aisle and “cast aside ideological hang-ups and political self-interest.” Specifically, he identified four Senators—two Republicans and two Democrats—to lead this effort: Senators Rounds (R-SD), Young (R-IN), Heinrich (D-NM) and himself. He also called on Committee Chairs and Ranking Members to problem-solve on AI, specifically noting that Chair Cantwell (Commerce, Science, and Transportation), Peters (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs), Klobuchar (Rules), Warner (Select Committee on Intelligence), Durbin (Judiciary), as well as their Republican Ranking Members, can serve as leaders to drive bipartisan solutions forward.
- Senator Schumer recognized that this undertaking to regulate AI is “exceedingly ambitious” and emphasized the need for humility because “success is not guaranteed.” He acknowledged that legislation cannot solve every challenge AI presents, but that it is an important step forward in laying a new foundation for human advancement.
- During the Q&A following Senator Schumer’s statement, he suggested that while his team has looked at international efforts coming out of the European Union, Singapore, China, and Brazil, he believes that these proposals were developed too quickly to capture the imagination necessary to address the enormity of AI.
- In response to a question about competition in the AI industry, Senator Schumer noted that in crafting regulations, Congress must balance the need to allow innovative companies to continue innovating in this space, while at the same time ensuring that smaller companies or start-ups are not excluded from opportunities to grow and expand.
- Senator Schumer indicated that, while there is no set timeline, final legislation on AI is likely months away, not weeks or years.
Senator Schumer’s statements today represent a significant step in congressional policymaking on AI and reflect that this will continue to be a key priority for congressional leadership. As the Senate Leader noted in a floor speech on Tuesday, “In the 21st century, elected representatives must treat AI with the same level of seriousness as national security, job creation, and our civil liberties, because AI will touch on these issues and many, many more.” It will be important to observe how other Members of Congress, especially House and Senate Republicans respond to this proposal. Given AI’s wide-ranging implications for business and society, we will continue to monitor and post on congressional and regulatory developments related to this issue.