Congressional offices experimenting with generative AI, though widespread adoption appears limited

A handful of lawmakers indicated they’re using AI in their offices, in response to a FedScoop inquiry to House and Senate AI caucus members.
A bicyclist rides past the US Capitol at dusk as the House meets to vote on a rules package for the 118th Congress, in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2023. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images).

As generative artificial intelligence tools have made their way into public use, a few offices on Capitol Hill have also begun to experiment with them. Widespread use, however, appears to be limited. 

FedScoop inquiries to every member of the House and Senate AI caucuses yielded over a dozen responses from lawmakers’ offices about whether they are using generative AI tools, as well as if they have their own AI policies. Seven offices indicated or had previously stated that staff were using generative AI tools, five said they were not currently using the technology, and three provided a response but didn’t address whether their offices were currently using it. 

The varied responses from lawmakers and evolving policies for use in each chamber paint a picture of a legislative body exploring how to potentially use the technology while remaining cautious about its outputs. The exploration of generative AI by lawmakers and staff also comes as Congress attempts to create guardrails for the rapidly growing technology.

“I have recommended to my staff that you have to think about how you use ChatGPT and other tools to enhance productivity,” Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., told FedScoop in an interview, pointing to responding to constituent letters as an example of an area where the process could be streamlined.


But Bera also noted that while he has accessed ChatGPT, he doesn’t often use it. “I’d rather do the human interaction,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., has policies for generative AI use in both his office and the majority office of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which he chairs. 

“The policy permits the use of generative AI, and provides strong parameters to ensure the accuracy of any information compiled using generative AI, protect the privacy and confidentiality of constituents, ensure sensitive information is not shared outside of secure Senate channels, and guarantee that human judgment is not supplanted,” a Peters aide told FedScoop.

And some lawmakers noted they’ve explored the technology themselves.

Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Fla., told FedScoop that when ChatGPT first became public, he asked the service to write a floor speech on the topic of the day as a Republican member of Congress from Florida. Once the machine responded, Franklin said he joked with his communication staff that “y’all are in big trouble.’”


While Franklin did not directly comment on AI use within his office during an interview with FedScoop, he did say that he’ll play with ChatGPT and doesn’t want to be “left behind” where the technology is concerned. 

House and Senate policies

As interest in the technology has grown, both House and Senate administrative arms have developed policies for generative tools. And while generative AI use is permitted in both chambers, each has its own restrictions.

The House Chief Administrative Officer’s House Digital Services purchased 40 ChatGPT Plus licenses last April to begin experimenting with the technology, and in June the CAO restricted ChatGPT use in the House to the ChatGPT Plus version only, while outlining guardrails. That was first reported by Axios and FedScoop independently confirmed with a House aide. 

There is also indication that work is continuing on that policy. At a January hearing, House Deputy Chief Administrative Officer John Clocker shared that the office is developing a new policy for AI with the Committee on House Administration and said the CAO plans on creating guidance and training for House staff.


In a statement to FedScoop, the Committee on House Administration acknowledged that offices are experimenting with AI tools — ChatGPT Plus, specifically — for research and evaluation, and noted some offices are developing “tip sheets to help guide their use.”

“This is a practice we encourage. CAO is able to work with interested offices to craft tip sheets using lessons learned from earlier pilots,” the committee said in a statement. 

The committee has also continued to focus on institutional policies for AI governance, the statement said. “Towards that end, last month we updated our 2024 User’s Guide to include mention of data governance and this month we held internal discussions on AI guardrails which included national AI experts and House Officials.”

On the Senate side, the Sergeant at Arms’ Chief Information Officer issued a notice to offices allowing the use of ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing Chat, and Google Bard and outlining guidance for use last year. PopVox Foundation was the first to share that document in a blog, and FedScoop independently confirmed with a Senate aide that the policy was received in September. The document also indicated that the Sergeant at Arms CIO determined that those three tools had a “moderate level of risk if controls are followed.”

Congressional support agencies, including the Library of Congress, the Government Accountability Office and the Government Publishing Office, have also recently shared how they’re exploring AI to improve their work and services in testimony before lawmakers. Those uses could eventually include tools that support the work of congressional staff as well.


Aubrey Wilson, director of government innovation at the nonprofit POPVOX Foundation who has written about AI use in the legislative branch, said the exploration of the technology is “really innovative for Congress.”

“Even though it might seem small, for these institutions that traditionally move slowly, the fact that you’re even seeing certain offices that have productively and proactively set these internal policies and are exploring these use cases,” Wilson said. “That is something to celebrate.”

Individual approaches

Of the offices that told FedScoop they do use the technology, most indicated that generative tools were used to assist with things like research and workflow, and a few, including Peters’ office, noted that they had their own policies to ensure the technology was being used appropriately. 

Clocker, of the CAO, had recommended offices adopt their own internal policies adjusted to their preferences and risk tolerance at the January Committee on House Administration hearing. POPVOX has also published a guide for congressional offices establishing their own policies for generative AI tools.


The office of Rep. Glenn Ivey, D-Md., for example, received approval from the House for its AI use and encouraged staff to use the account to assist in drafting materials. But they’ve also stressed that staff should use the account for work only, ensure they fact-check the outputs, and are transparent about their use of AI with supervisors, according to information provided by Ivey’s office. 

“Overall, it is a tool we have used to improve workflow and efficiencies, but it is not a prominent and redefining aspect of our operations,” said Ramón Korionoff, Ivey’s communications director.

Senate AI Caucus co-chair Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., also has a policy that provides guidance for responsible use of AI in his office. According to a Heinrich spokesperson, those policies “uphold a high standard of integrity rooted in the fundamental principle that his constituents ultimately benefit from the work of people.”

Even if they don’t have their own policies yet, other offices are looking into guidelines. Staff for one House Republican, for example, noted they were exploring best practices for AI for their office.

Two House lawmakers indicated they were keeping in line with CAO guidance when asked about a policy. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said in a statement that his “office follows the guidance of the CAO and uses ChatGPT Plus for basic research and evaluation tasks.” 


Rep. Kevin Mullin, D-Calif., on the other hand, isn’t using generative AI tools in his office but  said it “will continue to follow the CAO’s guidance.”

“While Rep Mullin is interested in continuing to learn about the various applications of AI and find bipartisan policy solutions to issues that may arise from this technology, our staff is not using or experimenting with generative AI tools at this time,” his office shared with FedScoop in a written statement.

That guidance has been met with some criticism, however. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif, initially pushed back on those guardrails after they were announced, arguing the decision about what to use should be left up to individual offices. He also noted, at the time, that his staff were free to use the tools without restrictions. 

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., has also previously indicated he and his staff use the technology. A spokesperson for Young pointed FedScoop to a statement the senator made last year noting that he regularly uses AI and encourages his staff to use it as well, though he said staff are ultimately responsible for the end product.

Parodies and potential uses


Some uses of generative tools have made their way into hearings and remarks, albeit the uses are generally more tongue-in-cheek or meant to underscore the capabilities of the technology.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., for example, began his remarks at a July hearing with an AI-generated parody of “New York, New York;” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., played an AI-generated audio clip at a May hearing that mimicked the sound of his own voice; Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., delivered remarks at a March 2023 hearing written by ChatGPT; and Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., delivered a speech on the House floor in January 2023 written by ChatGPT.

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said anecdotally in an interview that he’s heard of others using it to draft press releases or speeches, though it’s not something his office uses. “This is no criticism of GPT4, but when you are looking at an enormous amount of written material, and you’re averaging it all out, you’re going to get something pretty average,” Beyer said.

Other lawmakers seemed interested in the uses of technology but haven’t yet experimented with it in their offices. 

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., for example, said in an interview that while his office isn’t using AI right now, he and his staff are exploring how it could be used.


“We are looking at potential use of AI for fact-finding, for the verification of any data that we may have available to us, fact-checking matters that are important for us in terms of background information for debate,” Espaillat said, adding “but we’re not there yet.”

POPVOX Foundation’s Wilson, a former congressional staffer, said one of her takeaways from her time working in Congress was “how absolutely underwater” staff is with keeping up with information, from corresponding with federal agencies to letters from constituents. She said that generative AI could help congressional staff sort through information and data faster, which could inform data-driven policymaking.

“In a situation where Congress is not willing to give itself more people to help with the increased workflow, the idea that it’s innovatively allowing the people who are in Congress to explore use of better tools is one way that I think congressional capacity can really be aided,” Wilson said. 

Rebecca Heilweil contributed to this story.

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