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Weekly Washington Update: FAA Reauthorization and Other House Measures. Bipartisan House Bills. - Pat Soldano

Congress Passes Full-Year FAA, Various Measures: Following a months-long stalemate on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization, the House passed the compromise measure ahead of the May 17 deadline and sent the bill to President Biden for his signature. The House approved several other bills this week, including measures to: (1) prevent the Biden administration from withholding Israel military assistance; (2) require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to study the impact of illegal immigration on law enforcement; and (3) expand the areas where off-duty and retired police officers can carry concealed firearms, among others.

House Oversight and Accountability Committee Passes Updated BIOSECURE Act: On Wednesday, May 15, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee held a markup  of various bills, including H.R. 8333, the BIOSECURE Act. This bill would prohibit executive agencies from procuring or obtaining biotechnology equipment or services produced by a biotechnology company of concern. The bill would also prohibit executive agencies from entering into a contract or to extend or renew a contract with an entity that uses biotechnology equipment or services produced or provided by a biotechnology company of concern. Chair James Comer (R-KY) highlighted the bill would prevent taxpayer dollars from going to China or other foreign adversaries. He discussed how many of the companies named in the legislation pose a national security risk to the United States, noting that BGI is the largest known collector of genomic data. Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said the intent of the legislation is to prevent the CCP from accessing U.S. sensitive health data. The BIOSECURE Act was favorably reported as amended by a 40-1 vote to the House for future consideration. Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX) is the only member who voted no.

State Dept. Mid-FY Report Touts Record Level of Visas Issued: On May 13, the State Department issued a midway report  providing an overview of its visa processing efforts over the first half of fiscal year 2024. Notably, the agency reported that it had issued nearly 5.2 million visas over that period—a record amount for any such six-month period. It also said that 30% of all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad hit all-time records for the number of nonimmigrant visas issued by them.

Senate Rules Committee Holds AI-Focused Markup: On May 15, the Senate Rules Committee advanced three bills that focus on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in federal elections, including provisions that would implement watermarking requirements and develop AI-use guidelines for federal election officials. The Protect Elections from Deceptive AI Act (S.2770 ), sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME), would ban the use of AI-generated content that is “materially deceptive” in advertisements depicting federal political candidates. Another bill, the AI Transparency in Elections Act of 2024 (S.3875 ), sponsored by Sens. Klobuchar and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would require watermarking on political advertisements that make use of AI. Finally, the Preparing Election Administrators for AI Act (S.3897 ), sponsored by Sens. Klobuchar and Collins, would help federal election administrators deal with the risks and challenges posed by AI. Some senators took issue with the bills, with Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) stating that “they are over-inclusive, and they sweep in previously unregulated speech that goes beyond deepfakes.” The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration; however, their final path to passage remains unclear with notable opposition from Republican lawmakers.

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