Without a doubt, the birth of the royal baby has captured the attention of U.S. audiences. Many commentators have attributed American fascination with the royal family to the mystique of monarchy. But more importantly, it is an example of the strong historical, political, and cultural ties between the United Kingdom and United States. Fittingly, evidence of the shared values or “special relationship” between these two nations was on display during the week of July 22 – 26, 2013 at Meridian International Center.
On Monday, July 22, 2013, the Department of State and Meridian officially welcomed eight Members of the U.K. Parliament (MPs). Seven Members of the House of Commons and one Member of the House of Lords traveled to the United States as part of a Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on the U.S. Legislative Process, administered by Meridian. The annual visit is a tradition of the British-American Parliamentary Group (BAPG), a Group that has created opportunities for U.K. and U.S. legislators to discuss common interests and concerns for over seventy years.
Over the course of the week, the group enjoyed the chance to learn more about U.S. political processes and key policy issues in meetings with U.S. departments of government such as the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Budget Office. But nowhere was the strength of U.S. and U.K. relations more apparent than during the Members’ time spent on Capitol Hill. In conjunction with the British Embassy, the Congressional UK Caucus held a reception on July 23 to welcome the MPs. The evening opened with a toast “God save the Queen, and God bless America”, and a round of “Happy Birthday” in honor of MP Tracey Crouch who spoke glowingly of the warm reception which she and her fellow MPs received. Of course, throughout the evening, guests were in a celebratory mood with the birth of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. In fact, the MPs were enjoying that Americans seemed equally as fascinated with the new prince as Londoners.
The Members spent the next few days meeting with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill, in one-on-one meetings and roundtable discussions, along with time spent observing House votes and floor debate. The group noted similarities and differences between their legislative systems, ranging from the smaller details of office size and protocol to the larger issues of the executive and legislative power balance and policies most important to their constituents. Even though the process may differ, both Parliament and Congress members shared a deep interest in the same issues of national budgets, as well as how to revive struggling economies, health care and social policy, energy, and international affairs.
Over the weekend of July 27-28, the MPs will further immerse themselves in American politics as they travel with Representatives to their local districts in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Alabama, Arizona, and California.