Senator Tim Kaine on the Congressional Response to COVID-19

On May 12, 2020, Meridian hosted Senator Tim Kaine, Democratic Senator from Virginia and former Virginia Governor (2006-2010) for a virtual Insights@Meridian. As a Member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services Committees, Senator Kaine discussed U.S.  foreign policy and how it is being conducted during times of heightened worldwide tensions. Moderated by Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press, Julie Pace, the conversation also examined key domestic issues related to the administration’s COVID-19 response.

Below are the key takeaways from the conversation:

  1. LESSONS LEARNED. As COVID-19 continues to upend life around the world, Senator Kaine discussed China’s shortfalls in dealing with the virus and stressed the importance of learning from China’s mistakes. “We need to point out China’s mistakes without repeating them.” Senator Kaine called for transparency and noted that the administration should not suppress the CDC from issuing state reopening guidelines, adding that the administration should not be afraid to announce testing targets out of fear of falling below them.
  2. U.S. BUILT UPON IMMIGRATION.“Talent is the most precious resource in the world,” Senator Kaine exclaimed as he discussed the dangers of pursuing anti-immigration policies that may suggest the United States is trying to wall-off people from other parts of the world. Senator Kaine spoke about the need for comprehensive immigration reform through Congressional action, something that hasn’t been done since 1986.
  3. STRENGTH IN ALLIANCES.Under the current Administration the U.S. has pursued more isolationist actions, but Senator Kaine countered this viewpoint, stating, “I am a huge believer in that things work better in the world if we’re engaged globally.” This global pandemic will force the world to confront other issues and will test the resiliency of alliances. Specifically, Senator Kaine characterized the transatlantic relationship as strong and asserted that this relationship will be a key pillar that the U.S. will rely on when addressing the challenge of economic recovery.
  4. STRUGGLE FOR POWER ON PENNSYLVANIA AVE.As tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalated earlier this year to a point that  brought the country to the brink of war with Iran, Senator Kaine introduced a resolution that would block the president from pursuing acts of war without explicit approval from Congress. While the resolution was ultimately vetoed by President Trump, Senator Kaine believes President Trump is attuned to public opinion and understands that Congress is listening to public concerns. Framing it as a non-partisan issue, Senator Kaine noted that representatives from both sides of the aisle have supported war powers legislation, saying that the battle has become more of a struggle for power between the White House and Congress.
  5. U.S. PARTNERSHIP: NOT RELIABLE, BUT DESIRED. Senator Kaine characterized the United States as an unreliable, yet desired, partner. While there are increased concerns about the United States' unreliability as a partner, Senator Kaine believes the United States still has the opportunity to be engaged and build “multinational responses to multinational problems.”

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

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