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Senators to introduce a bipartisan AI bill aimed at keeping up with China

The Global Technology Leadership Act comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other members of Congress have made addressing artificial intelligence a key target.
U.S. flags at the Washington Monument near the Capitol.
The Global Technology Leadership Act would establish an office to analyze how competitive the country is in critical technologies like AI in comparison to rivals such as China.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators will introduce legislation on Thursday aimed at managing the rise of artificial intelligence and its use by U.S. adversaries.

The new bill comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has vowed to make addressing AI a priority and members of both parties are eyeing Big Tech, and AI in particular, as key focuses for this Congress.

The Global Technology Leadership Act would establish an office that analyzes how competitive the country is in critical technologies like AI in comparison to rivals such as China, according to bill text shared exclusively with NBC News. The federal entity — named the Office of Global Competition Analysis — would consist of experts from the intelligence community, the Pentagon and other relevant agencies that use both intel and private-sector commercial data to make these assessments. A summary of the legislation notes that "although the Department of Defense evaluates how our battleships, tanks, and aircraft compare to other nations, there is no equivalent process for critical technologies" like AI.

The legislation's authors argue that creating the office would bolster American competitiveness, inform policymakers and strengthen U.S. leadership in strategic innovation.

“There is nobody — and I say this with complete certainty — no one in the federal government who can tell us how — nor frankly in the United States of America really — who can tell us how the U.S. stacks up in comparison to China in critical technologies like AI,” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., told NBC News in an interview.

“The point of all this is to make sure that we can evaluate our technology leadership relative to other countries and inform the appropriate policy response so we don’t get caught by surprise again as we did with 5G,” he added.

Bennet is leading the bill, with bipartisan co-sponsors Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Mark Warner, D-Va. The new legislation falls under the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction, which Warner chairs, and its introduction comes as Schumer has publicly declared that preparing for a future defined by AI and outcompeting the Chinese government are two of his top priorities this year.

Schumer on Tuesday sent a "Dear Colleague" letter with Young along with Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M, outlining three senators-only AI briefings that will take place over the course of the summer. The last one, which focuses on adversaries’ use of AI, will be the first-ever classified all-senators briefing on AI, Schumer said.

“I urge all my colleagues to attend these briefings because it won’t be long before we see AI’s dramatic changes in the workplace, in the classroom, in our living rooms and in virtually every corner of our lives,” the leader said on the Senate floor this week. “It’s already starting to happen. We must be ready.”

Members of the upper chamber have stressed that Schumer is keenly interested in AI, and the leader himself told reporters in April that he discussed the topic during a meeting with Elon Musk on Capitol Hill. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, whose company developed ChatGPT, has also met with members of Congress and testified last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bennet told NBC News that his staff has discussed his Global Technology Leadership Act with Schumer’s team, and the Colorado Democrat believes his bill “has a real chance.”

“I am really enthusiastic about his effort to legislate around our competition with China this year,” Bennet said of Schumer. “That’s distinct but related to the work that he’s doing in a bipartisan way to educate the caucus on AI. And so, I think all these things fit well together and I would expect and hope that if we move legislation along the lines that Sen. Schumer has suggested, that this would be a fundamental part of what we’re trying to do.”

Schumer has also met with Rounds, Young and Heinrich in the past about their emerging bipartisan group focused on comprehensive AI legislation, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Bennet noted that both AI and competition with China are issues ripe for bipartisan support.

Asked to predict the odds of his legislation becoming law, Bennet responded, “I think there’s a high likelihood of success.”