Congress' tech plate is full, with little time at the table

Gopal Ratnam, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Congress has a full slate of technology policy challenges to resolve, ranging from artificial intelligence systems to data privacy and children’s online safety — with not much time on the congressional calendar before the November election intrudes.

In the absence of federal legislation, more than a dozen states have enacted data privacy laws, and more are in the pipeline. Likewise, several states also have established, or are mulling, laws relating to artificial intelligence systems, all of which increases the pressure to create national policies.

Starting Wednesday, there will be fewer than 50 days left in which both chambers of Congress are scheduled to be in session before the election on Nov. 5.

Congress may end up enacting narrower bills on AI before November but is unlikely to pass a comprehensive measure before then, said Linda Moore, CEO of TechNet, a group whose members include top executives of Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google LLC, Meta Platforms Inc., Microsoft Corp., OpenAI and others.

“Congress has had a hard time coming together around issues that are really necessary to make sure that we have good, solid, foundational AI policy,” as well as a national privacy law and immigration changes necessary for the tech industry to thrive, Moore said in an interview.

“In terms of a comprehensive AI policy package, I don’t expect that to come together for passage this year for a lot of different reasons,” Moore said. “We know that they have a very full plate, and they have a lot of things that they need to get done before the end of the year but they haven’t yet.”


Congress may enact legislation restricting the use of AI deepfakes in elections or fully fund the National AI Research Resource — a collaborative venture between the National Science Foundation, 10 federal agencies and about 25 nongovernmental agencies — Moore said. The goal of the effort is to expand access to resources throughout the country to advance development of AI systems.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., held a series of closed-door briefings in 2023 for lawmakers on AI systems with the goal of building a consensus on broad AI legislation, but he hasn’t yet indicated when he might propose such a measure.

In February the House created an AI task force led by Reps. Jay Obernolte, R-Calif., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., who have said they don’t envision putting out catchall legislation that would cover the technology broadly. The task force is expected to release its report by the end of this year.

The expectation that Congress will pass a federal data privacy law rose this month after Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said they had reached agreement on draft legislation. But the proposal has yet to garner widespread support in both chambers.


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