Rep. Joe Kennedy III may be in the House, but he has some thoughts about changing the way things work in the Senate.
As he continues to mull whether to challenge Sen. Ed Markey in next year’s Democratic primary, the Massachusetts congressman told WBZ in an interview Thursday that he supports a number of structural reforms to the democratic process, including abolishing the Electoral College, term limits on Supreme Court judges, and eliminating the Senate filibuster rule requiring a 60-vote majority to pass most legislation.
“The intellectual idea behind the filibuster was that it was supposed to be a moderating force so that you get a deliberative body that acts in a way the majority of the country supports,” Kennedy said. “The Senate can’t agree that today is Thursday or that it’s sunny outside or that the Patriots are the best team in NFL history. We can’t agree on anything.”
The use of the filibuster to block legislation and executive appointees has increased dramatically in the past few decades. Subsequently, party leaders have recently chipped away at the supermajority rule, with Democrats voting in 2013 to abolish the 60-vote rule for most presidential nominees, before Republicans eliminated it in 2017 for Supreme Court nominees as well.
Still, the threshold remains in place for most bills, which Kennedy says has resulted in legislative stagnation and a “bigger and bigger rift” between voters and government policy.
“That’s the fissure that allowed Donald Trump to win in the first place and that’s what we’ve got to change,” the Newton Democrat told WBZ.
Kennedy’s position puts him in alignment with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who called for the elimination of the Senate filibuster in April. He also spent most of Thursday campaigning in New Hampshire for Warren’s presidential bid, even though Massachusetts’s senior senator has endorsed Markey for re-election. Warren says the filibuster has been used as a “tool to block progress on everything” and needs to be abolished if Democrats want to enact meaningful policy.
Markey’s position on the filibuster is a bit less clear.
In 2017, he told MSNBC that Democrats would “restore the 60-vote margin” for Supreme Court nominees, if the party wins back a majority in the Senate. After introducing the Green New Deal in February, the Malden native told reporters that he thought the transformative proposal to address climate change could get 60 votes with Republican support. When asked about potentially using the legislative process known as reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority in the Senate, to pass the Green New Deal, Markey said that “all legislative options are on the table.”
I caught up with him again in a small gaggle after the conference and in response to a question about reconciliation from, I believe, @ryangrim, he said "all legislative options are on the table."
— Osita Nwanevu (@OsitaNwanevu) February 7, 2019
The senator’s office did not reply to requests for comment Friday.
Kennedy says he will make a decision about running for Markey’s seat in a few weeks and, for his part, is making it clear where he stands. The congressman’s campaign promoted the WBZ article, which was titled “Joe Kennedy Starting To Sound Like A Senate Candidate,” in an email to reporters Thursday afternoon.
“The fact is our system is not working,” Kennedy said in the interview, which will air in its entirety Sunday morning on WBZ.
“You look at our health care system, our immigration system, the fact that our economy is not providing the ability for people to make ends meet, and our political system is supposed to address those and fix them and they’re not,” he continued. “We need to update it, we need to fix it, we need to get to the core of this, and if I get in this race it’ll be on core issues like that.”