Rep. Joe Kennedy was moving back into his office when WGBH News’ Morning Edition spoke with him the day after the 116th Congress was sworn in. In his office amid still-wrapped portraits and furniture ready to be arranged for the new year of work, Kennedy discussed the partial government shutdown, one he says is "without question one that The President created and continues to perpetuate".
Kennedy also expressed his hope for getting healthcare reform and hopes that the gridlock will end with the shift of power in the house in his discussion with WGBH Morning Edition anchor Joe Mathieu.
Joe Mathieu: I'm assuming you have no sense of a timeline on this. Everyone is dug in, beginning with the president, who kind of changed his tune in the middle of this and is showing no signs when you read the tweets you hear what he's saying -- no signs of backing down.
Rep. Joe Kennedy: Joe, I think there are discussions going on, there's always discussions going on; and those are back channels, conversations with Republicans and conversations with Democrats, trying to find a sweet spot here through this. I will say, from my conversations with folks that are in the midst those conversations, the biggest challenge, unfortunately, remains the president.
We are in a shutdown because the president backed off his word that he gave to the Senate two weeks ago that helped pass that bill 100 to nothing. And after it passed 100 to nothing from going to support it, he decided that he wasn't gonna support it.
And this has happened over and over and over again, where conversations have taken place between Democrats and various Republicans, you get essentially a deal, only to have the president backtrack, back away, change his mind.
And so until the president is willing to put forth a proposal and stand behind it, it makes it next to impossible for anybody else to try to figure out what it's going to take in order to get out of this. And without question, this is a shutdown that I believe he created, it's a shutdown that he perpetuates. The American public deserves better; we all deserve better. Those employees deserve better. The parts of our government that are now shut down deserve better. The trash that is overflowing on the National Mall, the U.S. Coast Guard that is now going unpaid...this has real consequences for hundreds of thousands of American families and our society writ large.
Mathieu: You tweeted recently that while people are outraged and obsessed over this matter of the wall, they should actually be paying more attention to what's happening with the recent ruling on health care. I'd like to ask you about that: the future of health care reform. As our Attorney General Maura Healey joins over a dozen other attorneys general in trying to take a legal angle on this, you have a legislative angle. What can the House do, what can you do to keep the Affordable Care Act alive?
Kennedy: We can do a lot...We will pass fixes and adjustments to the Affordable Care Act to try to make sure that we solidify the exchanges. When you have that unthinkable moment that there's actually a system there to provide for you we can, we now have a chance to do that. I hope that our colleagues in the Senate will follow suit and I hope the president will sign it.
Mathieu: Whether it's this issue, health care or any other for that matter in Washington, when it comes to policy does a Democratic controlled House exacerbate the gridlock or break it?
Kennedy: I certainly hope we are able to break it. And I think that there are opportunities that we will take from the very beginning to try to address the concerns of our country. Infrastructure being one, health care being another, climate change being another, challenges to our economy being a fourth. We have, I think a mandate here from these elections this past November to actually address those concerns. I hope that our counterparts in the Senate and the president will meet us halfway on those ideas and on those proposals and that we can actually do some big things. But if the president decides that he essentially wants to just pick a fight then we'll stand our ground.
The challenge with our system is that it does necessitate compromise. Compromise means all parties to that table are going to have to give something. I think he's got to have a willing hand from House Democrats recognize that we only control one half of the legislative chamber needed to get something through the House, the Senate, and the president. We're going to have to be willing to give. I think we will be willing to work with this president and Republicans, where they are willing to work with us. I hope President Trump is willing to work with us.