Congressional Research Service looking at AI for bill summaries

The research entity, which operates under the Library of Congress, hopes to implement AI for legislative summaries “soon,” its interim director told a House panel.
Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building
Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, on Capitol Hill. (Library of Congress / Flickr)

The Congressional Research Service is exploring the use of artificial intelligence to summarize legislation, which could potentially alleviate some of the agency’s backlog, CRS’s interim director told lawmakers Wednesday. 

“One of the things that we’re very excited about is a process that we’re looking at right now to develop five models that would help us with bill summaries,” Robert Newlen, CRS’s interim director, said at a hearing before the Committee on House Administration’s modernization subcommittee.

Newlen acknowledged that the agency had a “huge backlog of bill summaries and analysis for” and said CRS believes AI has the potential to help. But Newlen also noted they’re approaching use of the tools with caution.

“We have a whole set of criteria that have to be met, and our hope is that we can implement this soon so that our staff can spend more time on the analysis, which is the … really hard work, and less time on the summaries,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to be absolutely assured that that information is a very high quality.” 


The idea to use AI to automate bill summaries has already been attempted at least once. In January, Politico announced that subscribers to Politico Pro would have AI-generated bill summaries available to them. Newlen, however, said examples from Politico that CRS reviewed for accuracy “did not pass the test.” 

“This is a good caution for us to ensure that we always have the best data available,” Newlen said. 

CRS’s exploration of generative AI comes as other congressional support agencies have also indicated that they’re working with the technology to improve their services. The Government Accountability Office, for example, has listed multiple AI use cases, including late-stage prototypes to summarize GAO’s legislative mandates and organize comments from

Newlen’s comments were in response to a question from Rep. Mike Carey, R-Ohio, about the CRS’s work with AI, though the legislative hearing was mainly focused on two bipartisan bills that would impact the agency and a resolution to establish a commission on evidence-based policymaking. 

One of the bills, the “Modernizing the Congressional Research Service’s Access to Data Act” (H.R. 7593), is specifically aimed at codifying CRS’s ability to obtain information from federal agencies and entities within the executive branch, which CRS has had difficulty with.


In response to a question from Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., Newlen said that if given the authority under that bill, CRS would use it for pending requests it has with several agencies that it’s having difficulty moving forward on due to “roadblocks” by those agencies. 

One agency told CRS that they considered CRS analysts to be “the same thing as press,” Newlen said. He didn’t disclose which agency that was in an effort to not jeopardize their communications. “It’s really been very difficult,” he said. 

Modernization Subcommittee Chairwoman Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., is the lead sponsor of that legislation, which was introduced earlier this month. Kilmer and Carey are both original co-sponsors.

Madison Alder

Written by Madison Alder

Madison Alder is a reporter for FedScoop in Washington, D.C., covering government technology. Her reporting has included tracking government uses of artificial intelligence and monitoring changes in federal contracting. She’s broadly interested in issues involving health, law, and data. Before joining FedScoop, Madison was a reporter at Bloomberg Law where she covered several beats, including the federal judiciary, health policy, and employee benefits. A west-coaster at heart, Madison is originally from Seattle and is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Latest Podcasts