Late last week, Congressman Kevin McCarthy abruptly withdrew his name from the running to be the next Speaker of the House. The California Republican was considered by many to be the frontrunner in the contest to replace current Speaker John Boehner, who announced his resignation earlier this month. 

Congressman Joseph Kennedy III joined Boston Public Radio Tuesday to discuss the tumultuous state of the House leadership fight and the renewed efforts of Democrats to push gun control legislation through Congress.

Is there any hope Congress will make a move on gun violence?

"Look, one of the most demoralizing moments in my tenure in Washington, D.C. so far was seeing the debate after Sandy Hook and not being able to, in the House, even get a—forget a vote—but even to debate a bill around gun violence legislation. To know you can send your kids off to elementary school and there could be a mass shooting, and a chamber or body that has the ability to do something about it would essentially say 'no, we’re not going to' is an extraordinary statement.

Look, I’m a strong supporter of closing the private sale loophole, the gun show  loophole and trying to make sure people that have a history of  a mental illness get screenings for a background check before they can get a gun. The vast majority of Americans are as well. The bottom line is…yes, of course something could be done about it. Will that something be done about it? The issue there is accountability. For the legislatures preventing a bill like this to come to the floor, they have to be held accountable." 

What's going on with the search for the next Speaker of the House?

"Kevin McCarthy is a friend of mine. I respect him immensely. The issue, when he decided to pull his name from...the race to be Speaker, I don't think that had a whole lot to do with actually Kevin McCarthy and had to do a lot with the structural issues that forced Boehner out of office are still very much at play.

It is not clear to me that any sort of centrist Republican wouldn't be able to keep the Republican caucus in order. Look, Boehner...when he was elected Speaker, I believe he had the eighth most conservative voting record in the House. He's not—and I have tremendous respect for the Speaker as well—he wasn't a moderate. He's an institutionalist, but he's a very conservative lawmaker who happened to understand that being part of a 435-member body, you had to compromise, particularly if you had divided government...

If you're going to actually pass legislation you have to be willing to compromise. We've gotten to a  point where there's about 12-15% of one half of the legislative chamber, 40-50 members, strong, hard line conservatives that have said 'it's our way or the highway, and we are going to drive federal policy.' And that's just not the way these institutions work."

What does he think of Patrick Kennedy's new biography, detailing his struggle with substance abuse and mental illness?

I haven't had a chance to read the book yet. I'm certain I will at some point. I was joking last time that my signed copy from Patrick has yet to arrive, but I have no doubt it is en route somewhere. Look, I certainly look forward to reading it when I do have a chance to sit down with it. I am extraordinarily proud of Patrick and all he has done in his history of advocacy on mental health and mental illness and substance abuse...I applaud his efforts for that. With regards to the details of the book, as I said, I haven't read it yet...I hesitate to comment on something I don't know much about.

To hear more from Congressman Joe Kennedy, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.