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‘Immediate Urgency’

Senate Intelligence Preps Hearing on Potential AI, Election Security Policies

The Senate Intelligence Committee plans a hearing on AI policies, potentially to address election security issues, Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., told us Wednesday. Election security and public markets are areas that require “immediate urgency,” Warner said. “There’s a group of us thinking about some of those items.” Ranking member Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told us he wants to examine what the technology means for national security, defense and cybersecurity.

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Committees will have an “important” opportunity at next week’s AI Insight Forum to learn from some of the most important leaders in industry, civil society, defense, research, labor and the arts, said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on the Senate Floor Thursday (see 2309060062).

Each committee is formulating ideas within its area of expertise, but not all committee recommendations are “going to see daylight,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who helped Schumer organize the forum. Schumer and Rounds are working with Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., to formulate ideas through Schumer’s series of AI briefings and events. Rounds, Heinrich and Young said they’re not convinced AI technology needs a separate regulator. Congress is generally “wary” of creating new departments, Heinrich told us: “We have a lot of existing tools, and we should figure out how to apply those to new technologies.” Legislation is needed, but Congress doesn’t need to “reinvent the wheel,” he said.

A light touch on technology is what’s going to keep technology here in the U.S. developing new frontiers,” said Rounds. Young said he’s “not categorically opposed” to a new tech regulator, but the more likely outcome is creating or assigning an individual entity to coordinate from within the White House. That could “conceivably” be handled by an existing entity like the Office of Science and Technology Policy, he said. Warner told us he’s not ruling out the concept of creating a new agency, but said, “Candidly the idea that the current House Majority would create anything new for the federal government” is unlikely.

The Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee wants to pursue an open, flexible process for developing legislative solutions, Chairman John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., told us Wednesday. The panel scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on AI transparency. Hickenlooper said he’s still gathering information on the question of a new regulator and all other issues about AI. Any preconceived ideas shouldn’t get in the way of the committee exploring all options, he said.

Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said he supports creating a new government agency to regulate the entire tech sector, not just AI. He introduced legislation (see 2307280063) with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. Congress can’t respond with a “whack-a-mole” approach to AI, said Welch: It needs a properly resourced public entity. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., another subcommittee member, said Wednesday he wants to explore how a new federal agency would affect the FCC, SEC, DOD and all other agencies with relevant authority.