Insights@Meridian with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn

On November 18th, Meridian hosted a virtual Insights@Meridian with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) who shared his perspectives on the election, the future of the Democratic party, and legislative priorities for the 117th Congress. Through a moderated conversation and Q&A with Josh Resnik, Chief Content Officer and Publisher of CQ Roll Call, foreign ambassadors and private sector leaders also learned about the government’s responsibility to prioritize equitable decisions.

Below are some of the top takeaways from the conversation.

The Meridian 5: Insights@Meridian with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn

  1. COVID-19 RESPONSE PAVING THE WAY FOR NEEDED REFORMS. “First and foremost, COVID-19 must be dealt with,” Congressman Clyburn emphasized. Coordinating a national response for COVID-19 will also require the U.S. government to strengthen infrastructural gaps related to healthcare responsiveness and address other priorities such as education and broadband access. Hoping that a version of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package in an updated version of The HEROES Act will pass the Senate, Congressman Clyburn called on state and local governance to use federal assistance to prevent continued high levels of layoffs and furloughs for important departments like health, education, and policing.
  2. “ADHERING TO EFFICIENCY, EFFECTIVENESS, AND EQUITY.” Congressman Clyburn drew a distinction between the role of the scientific community in research and innovation and the responsibility of the government to distribute the benefits of investments in private industry. He recalled the U.S. government distribution of the polio vaccine, given by injection or orally, and how African Americans and other minority communities were disproportionately given the less favorable injection-based vaccines. As Chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, the Congressman expressed that his goal is to outline “when, where, and how” the vaccines are distributed to ensure the government makes decisions that lead to not only efficient and effective outcomes, but equitable ones, too.
  3. PUSHING A MORE PROGRESSIVE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA FORWARD. “Are we going to have programs, priorities, and laws that will get us to where we need to be, or are we going to make a headline?” Congressman Clyburn asked. Many of his Democratic colleagues want to push a progressive agenda; however, he cautioned them to focus on substantiating their policies rather than branding them. For example, judicial and police reform should be rooted in bipartisan research on the unintended consequences of past crime legislation like the 1994 Crime Bill  to build support for needed changes. Understanding the likelihood of a divided Congress, Congressman Clyburn also advised President-elect Joe Biden to use Executive Orders if partisan division creates harmful stalemates.
  4. INVESTING IN THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADERSHIP. While Congressman Clyburn expressed that “experience is the best teacher,” he also claimed that older party members should focus on training young individuals “not to be a flash in the pan, but to sustain development.” As an example, he discussed how his mentorship of Jaime Harrison, who ran a close campaign against incumbent South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, has made him hopeful that Harrison will become the next Chairman of the DNC. Congressman Clyburn also recounted advising President-elect Biden to choose a woman of color as his running mate, citing that Kamala Harris’s experience and leadership helped secure his victory.
  5. “WE NEED TO RESTORE OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR ALLIES AROUND THE WORLD.” Congressman Clyburn disagrees with the “America First” doctrine and asserts that the U.S. should be a beacon for democracy around the world. He argued that the U.S. has an obligation to reignite this light by re-establishing its presence within NATO, re-joining the Paris Climate Accords, and continuing to restore faith with international leaders. Congressman Clyburn also stressed that national leaders should promote and uphold the results of clean and fair elections domestically to authenticate and support U.S. foreign policy.

Insights@Meridian  is designed to provide ambassadors and other senior diplomats with an opportunity to hear directly from Administration leaders, members of Congress, policymakers and business visionaries on vital policy issues of the day.

Project summary

Insights@Meridian with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn | November 2020
Number of Attendees: 41
Regions: Africa, East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, Western Hemisphere, Near East and North Africa
Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, El Salvador, Eswatini, France, Germany, Guyana, Ireland, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Thailand, Timor-Leste
Impact Areas: Governance and Transparency
Program Areas: Diplomatic Engagement