Massachusetts Representative Joseph Kennedy III , who was tapped to lead the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address, is a liberal democrat and a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act and gun restrictions. He’s spoken out in favor of immigration and refugee rights, including a few speeches specifically supporting ‘Dreamers.’ He’s also head of a Transgender Task Force and has worked with Human Rights Campaign on equal rights for LGBTQ people.
Kennedy sits on four committees: the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, the Subcommittee on Energy, and the Subcommittee on Health.
Where does Joe Kennedy stand on the issues?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He’s a Strong Supporter of the Affordable Care Act and called the Republican healthcare repeal bill and “act of malice”
In one of Kennedy’s most well-known speeches, he called the Republican healthcare repeal bill an “act of malice.”
“With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different scripture. The one that I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but by how we care for the least among us,” he said in a rebuttal to a statement from Paul Ryan.
He and his wife co-authored a piece in Cosmopolitan magazine in support of CHIP funding, and his wife is the co-founder of Neighborhood Villages, an organization that works to provide healthcare for children.
2. He’s Voted in Favor of Immigration, Refugee, & LGBTQ Rights, and has Given Many Impassioned Speeches on the Issues
Throughout his career, Kennedy has voted in favor of immigrant, refugee, and LGBTQ rights.
He voted no on the No Sanctuary for Criminals bill in June 2017, which proposed withholding federal funds from states and localities that do not follow immigration laws. The law passed. He also voted against the American SAFE Act of 2015, which proposed a stronger screening process for refugees from Syria and Iraq applying for admission to the United States. Kennedy voted against House Amendment 136-Prohibits the Enforcement of the Immigration Executive Order. This amendment aimed to “prohibit the use of funds to finalize, implement, administer, or enforce the Morton Memos.” The Morton Memos would have given amnesty to some illegal aliens in the U.S. He also spoke out about President Trump’s executive order, frequently called the “Muslim Ban,” barring refugees from entering the United States.
In 2013, Kennedy fasted for 24-hours with immigration activists in an effort to push Congress to take up immigration reform. He has spoken out numerous times in support of the DACA program.
“Our work comes down to a very simple question: what are we willing to ask our children to bear?” he said in a speech to the House of Representatives on DACA.
Kennedy is chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus’ Transgender Task Force, which focuses on health care access and disparities, public safety and violence against transgender men and women, and education and school environments.
Kennedy spoke about the issue on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, after President Trump signed an executive order (later deemed unconstitutional) banning transgender people from serving in the military.
“Our men and women in uniform…they are willing to risk life and limb for us. They don’t discriminate and say, ‘I will lay down my life for you but not you,’” Kennedy said to Noah.
Staff Sgt. Patricia King, a transgender soldier, will be Kennedy’s guest at the State of the Union.
Human Rights Campaign has given Kennedy a 100 percent rating, and the American Civil Liberties Union gave him an 88 percent rating.
3. He’s Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood Loves Him
Since he came into office, Kennedy has voted “nay” on numerous bills aiming to prohibit abortions. In 2013, he voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibited abortions after 20 weeks except in certain cases. He voted no on the same bill when it came up again in 2017.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund has given him a 100 percent rating.
4. He Supports Gun Control and Participated in a Sit-In After the Orlando Nightclub Shooting
Kennedy supports restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns. He believes the federal government should impose an assault weapons ban and end the gun-show loophole. He told Project Vote Smart that beyond these restrictions, states should be responsible for setting their own gun control standards.
In 2017, Kennedy blamed Republicans for lack of action on gun control.
“Since I have been in Congress, the number of times that we have paused on the House floor to try to send our thoughts and prayers to survivors, victims, and their families, at a certain point you say enough is enough,” he told the Boston Herald.
After the Orlando nightclub shooting, Kennedy participated in a Congressional sit-in to urge Republicans to address gun violence.
5. He’s Against Legalizing Marijuana and Thinks It Should be Regulated Like Medicine
In 2016, Kennedy told Boston Magazine he didn’t think marijuana should be legalized.
“I don’t think marijuana should be legalized. If we’re going to say marijuana is a medicine, it needs to be treated like a medicine and regulated like a medicine. But when we look at full-on legalization, the potential danger that marijuana poses particularly to adolescents—I’m not convinced,” he said.