Washington, D.C. – Leader Schumer spoke at a press conference following the robust bipartisan vote in the Senate to pass the National Defense Authorization Act. Below is a transcript of his remarks, as well as a document highlighting the Democratic victories in the NDAA.
Okay good evening everybody, and thank you for coming. And I'm joined by someone who's done a fabulous job on this, and nothing short of fabulous, on this NDAA bill. The great senior senator from the state of Rhode Island, Jack Reed, chairman of Armed Services. And I thank him, Senator Wicker and so many others for their great work.
Let's look at what's happened. The past few weeks in the Senate have shown the power of working in a bipartisan manner. NDAA is a prime example of how Congress can work together for the American people. We have a very divided country. We have a divided Congress. But nonetheless, we were able to come together and pass a bill overwhelmingly on one of the most important issues facing America, the defense bill.
And this is not alone. We came together and avoided default. I'll talk more about it in a minute, but the Appropriations Committee passed 12 bills here in the Senate – bipartisan. No one thought we could do that. So it's a stark contrast to the House. The House ought to look to the bipartisan Senate as to how to get things done, instead of just throwing out partisan bills that have no chance of passing.
Now, the NDAA is a down payment on one of the most important issues facing our country today, and that is defense. There are so many good provisions in this bill in terms of helping our troops and giving them the pay raises they need, making our defense stronger.
And let's not forget, there were other provisions added into the bill that are really important.
At the top of my list is the FEND Act, on fentanyl. Fentanyl is killing us. It's a national scourge. 106,000 people died of a fentanyl overdose last year. More young people died of it than in auto crashes. It's number one. And our bill allows the President to impose sanctions on China with the use of a national emergency and prevents China from sending the precursor drugs to Mexico, where they're made into fentanyl and sent to the U.S. And there will be sanctions on both these countries if they don't stop. It’s pretty severe medicine.
We also passed great stuff on AI. As you know, we have in a bipartisan way in the Senate, we're attempting to deal with AI and we make sure in the bill we have a lot of provisions. We have the bug bounty program, incentives for ethical hackers. We're conducting risk studies on the use of AI, and we're investing in research on the vexing issue of explainability.
We've also done some really good stuff to deal with the excesses of the Chinese government, including limiting the flow of investments and advanced technology to China. Typical of the bipartisan nature, it's a Casey-Cornyn amendment, and so much of this was done bipartisan. I think we have done a total of 98 amendments, 44 Democrat, 44 Republican, and the remainder bipartisan.
And we had the amendment process work here as well, which is just amazing. We're sending a strong message to President Xi that we're united in our security effort. And now let me go over a few other things that we care about. And this is the future. What are we going to do when we come back in September?
Well, it's going to be all hands on deck. First and foremost, we must fund the government. And as I said today, we took an incredible step forward. We have 12 appropriations bills that have been reported out of committee, a feat unheard of. I give a great deal of credit to [Chair] Patty Murray and Senator Susan Collins. This is a divided country. You say our politics are divided, and you had 12 appropriations bills passed in a bipartisan way out of the committee. Incredible.
We're also going to build on our history of confirming more judges to make the judicial system more reflective, it's a very high priority, and we're not stopping.
When we get back, I'm going to file cloture on three nominees, the NLRB nominee, Gwen Wilcox, and FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez, as well as the three Fed nominees to fill up the Fed. We're filing those tonight for immediate votes when we return.
And I have very good news. It looks like we're going to confirm in one bloc more than a dozen ambassadors. Right now, the number is 16. It may get a little higher. It may get a little lower. As you know, they were holding up the ambassadors and we're getting able to move them.
We have lots of other things we want to do when we get back. Rail safety, very high priority. Senator Brown is relentlessly leading the charge. I spoke to his colleague in the Senate tonight, and they're working together to build up enough support. We're working very hard and making great progress on $35 insulin for everybody. That will be a high priority when we get back.
The FAA bill, the Senate bill that Senator Cantwell is working on is very close to the House bill that is passed. So I expect we'll get an FAA bill very soon.
And we're making good progress on SAFE Banking, which, as you know, has always been a priority for me. So there's a lot to do when we get back but we're making good progress on every one of those pieces of legislation, as well as on the most important thing when we get back, funding the government in the appropriations process.
The bill passed 86 to 11, and we're continuing. No one thought we would do it, but the tradition of doing it, doing it on time, doing it in a timely way with virtually, if you watch the floor, almost no animus or acrimony, which says something.
That's the leader I try to be. Number one goal - get things done for the American people, cut costs, grow the middle class. These bills do that. Second, try to work in a bipartisan way as possible to get things done. And this Senate is an example of how bipartisanship can work. And again, let me just reiterate, because it's the contrast, the glaring contrast with the House, where the Republicans don't work in a bipartisan way and just throw stuff on the floor that they know has no chance of passing, doesn't help the American people one bit.
And so I'm looking forward to the House looking to the Senate as to how to get America moving.
This Senate-passed bipartisan NDAA protects our national security, takes care of our service members, and invests in critical capabilities to deter China’s aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Senate Democrats look forward to continued bipartisan cooperation in the NDAA conference this fall. Below is a summary of some of the key policies that Senate Democrats fought to secure.
Earlier this year, Majority Leader Schumer announced intentions to pursue bipartisan solutions to bolster U.S. competitiveness with the Chinese government. This year’s NDAA included a wide-range of provisions that do just that, while supporting U.S. innovation and global leadership.
Ø Limiting the Flow of Investment to China: Senate Democrats have been focused on making sure U.S. capital, intellectual property, and innovations do not fuel the civil-military industrial complex of the Chinese Communist Party. Senators Casey and Cornyn successfully added their Outbound Investment Transparency Act as an amendment to NDAA. It was passed with more than 90 votes in favor, as a first step in giving the U.S. the ability to identify and address vulnerabilities and risks posed when the Chinese government has access to American technology and expertise. This proposal focuses on industries critical to national security, including advanced semiconductors and microelectronics, artificial intelligence, quantum information science and technology, hypersonics, satellite-based communications, and networked laser scanning systems with dual-use applications.
Ø Domestic Economic Investments: Senate Democrats are investing in and protecting domestic innovation and industry to out-compete the Chinese government. The NDAA includes provisions from:
o Senator Tester to prevent foreign adversaries, including the Chinese government, from acquiring American farmland or agribusiness to protect America’s food security and national security
o Senators Kelly, Brown, and others to ensure federal environmental reviews are completed in a timely manner for these microchip projects supported by the CHIPS and Science Act
o Senator Hassan to bolster DoD efforts in innovation quantum information sciences and technology research to not fall behind the Chinese government’s efforts in this space
o Senators Carper and Capito to supercharge America’s efforts to deploy advanced nuclear technology and ensure the U.S. wins the advanced nuclear technology race against the Chinese government
o Senator Brown that directs DoD to ensure the military can more rapidly counter emergent technological advances by the Chinese government
o Senator Heinrich to support the DoD’s investment in digital engineering careers to provide the high-tech workforce needed for industries like AI.
o Senator Warner and others to ban the use of federal dollars to purchase drones made in countries of concern, including China
o Senator Peters and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to ensure the U.S. is equipped to counter Chinese government influence, including policies to secure federal property, enhance development of domestic critical minerals, advance border initiatives to disrupt the manufacturing and trafficking of fentanyl, and strengthening disclosure requirements of foreign influence in lobbying
Ø Economic Ally and Partner Alignment: Senate Democrats are advancing policies to counter the Chinese Community Party’s global influence by strengthening alliances and partnerships. Senator Manchin included an amendment in NDAA that supports renewing the Compacts of Free Association with Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. The NDAA also reinforces international alliances and partnerships to protect the maritime boundaries and marine resources or partner nations impacted by incursions of Chinese distant water fishing fleets. It also prohibits DoD funding for institutions and researchers who work with Chinese government institutions that steal intellectual property or that are linked to the Chinese military or intelligence services.
Ø Military Ally and Partner Alignment: The United States and our partners and allies are in a strategic competition with China in which the race to develop and deploy emerging technologies will play a decisive role. Senate Democrats successfully included an amendment supporting a security agreement with Australia and the United Kingdom (so called AUKUS Pillar II) to supercharge the development of advanced military capabilities, including artificial intelligence, electronic warfare, hypersonics, quantum, undersea military technologies, and cyber capabilities. An additional amendment strengthens our strategic partnership with Taiwan, including authorizing Taiwan to receive advanced and dual-use technologies and certain munitions. The NDAA also authorizes the full budget request of $9.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, establishes additional support for Taiwan’s military forces, and enhances security cooperation with Japan and India. Additionally, NDAA extends a cyber cooperation program with Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia as well as expands that program to include foreign military partners in the Philippines and Malaysia, and improves the posture of U.S. ground-based theater-range missile capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region.
Earlier this year, Majority Leader Schumer announced a comprehensive effort to boost U.S. innovation in artificial intelligence (AI), while ensuring necessary safeguards are in place to make the technology safe, transparent, and accountable. In line with that effort and following hard work from Senators Rounds, Young, and Heinrich, the NDAA includes multiple provisions that are in line with this effort, including an amendment from Rounds, Schumer, Young, and Heinrich that includes:
Ø Launching AI Bug Bounty Programs
o Both industry and government have adopted the use of bug bounties to reward white hat hackers for ethically and responsibly surfacing vulnerabilities and issues. The related provision in the amendment directs the Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer at the DOD to create a bug bounty program for foundational AI products being incorporated in the DOD. Given their unique, emergent capabilities, foundational AI products like ChatGPT and others have unique vulnerabilities that are still being discovered and through bug bounty programs, the DOD will have a more robust approach to countering novel risks from AI solutions powered by foundation models.
Ø Identifying Vulnerabilities of Emerging AI Systems
o This language directs DOD to coordinate with other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, NIST, and NSF, as well as industry and academia to conduct risk studies on AI. Specifically, this research will touch on important topics like explainability and traceability of AI, potential risks of multiple language models interacting, and assess research and development needs.
Ø AI Regulation in the Financial Services Industry
o The financial sector has long been a user of AI solutions, whether for fraud prevention, risk management, or automating repetitive tasks to drive down costs. However, recent advances in generative AI and foundation models have dramatically shifted the AI landscape and require additional regulatory attention. The report required by the amendment will help push federal financial regulators to both adopt and adapt to changes disrupting the industry thanks to AI. The amendment requires reports from all federal financial regulators that details the tasks most frequently being assisted or completed by AI today, governance standards in place at agencies for the use of AI and determinations of where AI may lead to new overlapping regulatory issues between agencies among other things.
Ø Promoting Data Sharing and Coordination
o DoD is leveraging its existing people and data to increase AI capabilities on a daily basis. This amendment directs DoD to submit a report on ways to improve data sharing, interoperability, and quality. This includes identifying longstanding practices and cultural barriers that contribute to decentralization of data systems and impede interoperability. This report will allow DoD to more efficiently tap into existing resources and integrate AI solutions going forward.
As Leader Schumer has made clear, addressing AI will be an all-Senators activity. To that end, other Senators fought and secured the following in the NDAA:
Ø Language updating policies and guidance in DoD, including around use of generative AI (defenses against adversarial AI, as well as how we might use it operationally)
Ø Language requiring an assessment on the use of AI for shipyard optimization
Ø Language requiring a DoD acquisition strategy for enterprise infrastructure and data repositories supporting DoD’s Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Office’s AI initiatives
Ø Language directing the development of AI and machine learning tools to better employ narrative intelligence technology in order to monitor and assess information campaigns by delivering comprehensive analysis of narrative themes, language and information patterns, and disinformation networks
Ø Language requiring a prize competition to evaluate technology, including applications, tools, and models for the detection and watermarking of general AI
Ø Senate Democrats secured the inclusion of the bipartisan Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act which passed out of the Banking Committee unanimously earlier this year. This bill allows government agencies to more effectively disrupt illicit opioid supply chains and penalize those facilitating the trafficking of the drug. Additionally, it imposes sanctions on both the drug trade and the money laundering schemes that make it profitable.
Ø Senate Democrats are delivering a dramatic blow to the fentanyl market to help solve the worst drug crisis in history and stop the hundreds of thousands of overdoses from this horrible drug.
Ø Senate Democrats are providing a major vital infusion to the fund that provides health care to first responders and survivors impacted by the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent rescue and recovery operation.
Ø This includes policy changes allow for the first time ever DoD employees impacted by the Shanksville, PA and Pentagon to access the same, high-quality care as non-DoD employees there on that tragic day.
Ø Senate Democrats fought for increased transparency around Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) by directing the National Archives and Record Administration to create a collection of records to be known as the UAP Records Collection and direct all government offices to identify which records would fall into the collection.
Ø This is a vital step towards giving the American public the right to learn about technologies of unknown origins, non-human intelligence and unexplainable phenomena.
Ø The Undetectable Firearms Act was permanently reauthorized as part of the NDAA. This decades-old legislation prohibits manufacturing, selling, or possessing any firearm that is not detectable by walk-through metal detection. Such ghost guns have killed dozens of people and injured hundreds more in recent mass shootings.
Ø Building on the success of last Congress’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the permanent reauthorization of the ghost gun ban once again proves Democrats are committed to fighting for real reform to reduce gun violence.
Ø Senate Democrats secured a key reauthorization of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), which expired in 2013.
Ø NAHASDA equips tribal government with financial resources to support affordable housing and infrastructure. This reauthorization guarantees funding for seven years, which will allow tribes to invest in their communities’ future.
Ø Housing is the key to promoting economic mobility and reducing poverty. Following Senate Democrats push, NAHASDA will finally have the resource to uplift tribal communities.