Why Biden should invite legislators to his ‘summit for democracy’

“There is a lively debate in Washington over how the Biden administration should make good on the president’s campaign promise to hold a ‘summit for democracy.’ Some have argued that the summit should be paired with a strategy to advance and support emerging democracy abroad. Some have noted the challenge of curating a list of attendees in a world where authoritarianism is on the march.

“Any agenda for President Joe Biden’s summit should include pushing commitments to strengthen legislative institutions globally. And given the essential role that elected representatives play in democratic resilience and revival around the world, legislators should be invited to participate.

“There are three essential reasons for this.

“The first is strategic. Democracy watchers have been sounding the alarm for the last year about the encroaching authoritarian tendencies that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. Globally, the legislative branch has been the last line of defense against executive overreach. Legislatures worldwide have established special committees, or given extra powers to standing committees, dedicated to COVID-19 oversight functions. These panels have been tasked with reviewing the government’s response to the pandemic and ensuring that funds are used fairly and appropriately.

“The second reason is tactical. Opening the door to legislators would allow wider representation of nations worldwide — legislators from nations that may have spotty democracy records at the executive level could still be invited without signaling tacit approval of the heads of government.

“Lastly, there is a pragmatic argument to include legislators from less advanced democracies. The Biden administration has emphasized the value of international cooperation and partnerships to tackle global challenges. Recent statements regarding NATO and the G-7/D-10 have further signaled the president’s commitment.

“Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as former legislators themselves, are uniquely positioned to understand and highlight the critical role individual legislators must play in safeguarding the democratic order and should extend an invitation to legislators around the world to take part in this historic event.”

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