Top GOP senator teams up with key Dem on ‘light-touch’ AI bill

Schumer spokesperson Allison Biasotti said the majority leader “does not view AI reforms as a partisan issue and believes the only way to fully harness its potential for good and limit its risks is through bipartisan action.”

Schumer has spent months examining the possibility of new AI rules, although it remains unclear how the majority leader plans to legislate. Last week Schumer kicked off the first in a series of “AI Insight Forums,” where tech leaders spoke to lawmakers behind closed doors. But some senators are growing impatient at the lengthy listening process — and on Wednesday, Klobuchar said that Congress “just can’t wait” to set guidelines for the AI systems used to set credit ratings and otherwise impact people’s lives.

“It’s really important that we have standards in place, and I appreciate Sen. Thune’s leadership on this,” Klobuchar told POLITICO. The Democratic senator is already the lead sponsor of a bill that would prevent deceptive AI-generated content from impacting elections.

Although not yet officially introduced, Thune’s bill has already picked up some powerful backers. Ryan Hagemann, AI policy executive at IBM, called it “the most comprehensive piece of legislation that is out there right now.” Hagemann told POLITICO that the bill “strikes a very moderate balance” between a hands-off approach to AI and early efforts to clamp down on the technology through licensing regimes or other restrictions.

In conversations with POLITICO this week, Thune repeatedly emphasized that his bill would take a “light-touch” approach to AI governance. While the Commerce Department would be tasked with enforcing the legislation, companies developing or deploying AI systems would ultimately be responsible for assessing their impact and certifying their safety.

“What we’re trying to do is mitigate against the riskiest applications of AI,” Thune told POLITICO on Wednesday. “There are mechanisms in there, in addition to self-certification, that I think create the safeguards — but without having the heavy hand of regulation that we think could be harmful.”

Thune and Klobuchar said their AI bill is likely to pick up a couple more Senate cosponsors ahead of its official introduction, which they expect either this week or next.

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