Mere minutes before terrorists launched coordinated attacks that killed more than 125 people in Paris, Congressman Joe Kennedy said that Congress needs to debate and vote on President Obama’s resolution authorizing the use of military force against ISIS.
Kennedy made the comment during the fifth LIVE Political Happy Hour, presented by Suffolk University in partnership with the Boston Globe, which took place on campus on Nov. 13.
The violence that unfolded overseas during Kennedy’s interview with Globe reporter Joshua Miller underscores questions about what role the United States should take in the fight against ISIS.
Kennedy said that a debate on the Obama resolution would allow the United States to clarify its goals in Syria, determine a timeframe for its engagement there, and evaluate the costs—monetary and human—of sending troops into conflict.
Kennedy feels so strongly about the need for this debate that when his signature first-term legislation—a program supporting domestic manufacturing—was included in an omnibus bill that also funded military actions in Syria, he voted against it.
“I didn’t feel like, even though I had my own piece of legislation wrapped up in this broader bill…that that was enough to say: I’m going to vote to authorize funds to a war that I don’t think we’ve debated and authorized,” he said.
The Kennedy name
During the course of the interview, Kennedy touched on a wide range of topics, including his support for a casino in Taunton and his advocacy for a Massachusetts bill that would ban discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, but he could not avoid the subject that follows him everywhere: his surname.
The son of former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., the grandson of Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and the grandnephew of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy III has publicly wrestled with his family legacy since his first campaign for Congress in 2012.
Asked if he was the “protector of the family legacy,” Kennedy gave a firm no, but he struggled to locate himself in relation to his predecessors. He said repeatedly that finding one’s own way is part of his forebears’ legacy, which set up an apparent paradox: Kennedy fits into his family tradition by following his own path.
“The message that my family has tried to send to us and to others is that everybody can find a way to contribute, and you find your own way,” said Kennedy, adding that as “a sophomore member of the minority party of the second-least popular Congress of all time,” he is currently doing what he can to contribute.
Kennedy also discussed his future political ambitions. Miller said that according to the conventional wisdom, Kennedy will run for the U.S. Senate when either Ed Markey or Elizabeth Warren decides to leave office, and he asked Kennedy if that speculation is true.
“The conventional wisdom has been that Donald Trump was going to flame out six months ago,” Kennedy responded. “The conventional wisdom, as much as I love our convention, is seldom wise.”
Kennedy said that he is satisfied with the work of a congressman, serving constituents and exploring the complex questions facing the country, but he did leave open the possibility of running for higher office at some point in the future.
“We’ll see way down the line,” he said.