Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is prioritizing funding Federal government operations beyond fiscal year 2023 which ends on Sept. 30, along with kicking off a set of briefings for senators on artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, when the Senate returns to session in Washington on Sept. 6.

According to a Sept. 1 “dear colleague letter” from Sen. Schumer to Senate Democrats obtained by Politico, the majority leader is focusing the hardest on funding the government beyond Sept. 30, when it will run out of money to carry out its functions.

“When the Senate returns next week, our focus will be on funding the government and preventing House Republican extremists from forcing a government shutdown,” he said in the letter.

“I want to thank our Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray, for her steadfast leadership and for working on a strong bipartisan basis with Vice Chair Collins to pass all 12 appropriations bills out of committee, some with unanimous support,” the senator said.

“To avoid a harmful and unnecessary government shutdown, the House should follow the Senate’s incredible lead and pass their appropriations bills in a bipartisan way,” Sen. Schumer said.

“We cannot afford the brinkmanship or hostage-taking we saw from House Republicans earlier this year when they pushed our country to the brink of default to appease the most extreme members of their party,” he continued.

“The only way to avoid a shutdown is through bipartisanship, so I have urged House Republican leadership to follow the Senate’s lead and pass bipartisan appropriations bills,” Sen. Schumer said.

Apart from budget issues, Sen. Schumer said he will convene on Sept. 13 the first in a series of promised “AI Insight Forums” that aim to “give all Senators the opportunity to learn, expand, and build upon our knowledge of this rapidly growing technology.”

“These forums will convene the leading minds in AI, including AI developers, civil rights and worker advocates, researchers, and other key thinkers, to lay a foundation for action on AI,” he continued.

“We know there is real bipartisan interest in developing a comprehensive AI framework to give Congress the opportunity to bolster and accelerate AI innovation in a safe and responsible way,” the senator said. “These forums will build on the longstanding work of our Committees by supercharging the Senate’s typical process so we can stay ahead of AI’s rapid development.”

Sen. Schumer said the Senate’s AI work “is not going to be easy, it will be one of the most difficult things we undertake, but in the twenty-first century we cannot behave like ostriches in the sand when it comes to AI.” He added, “we must treat AI with the same level of seriousness as national security, job creation, and our civil liberties.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.