On Tuesday, Sen. Ed Markey joined Boston Public Radio to discuss the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, his thoughts on police reform, and his Senate race against Rep. Joe Kennedy III.
Congress May Pass Another Stimulus Package
With the nation experiencing soaring coronavirus case counts, and several states shutting back down large swaths of their economy, Markey said Tuesday that he hopes Congress and President Donald Trump will be able to pass another stimulus package. The senator said that he is optimistic the Senate can come together to pass another relief package, but said the scope and magnitude of it will largely be driven by Senate Republicans.
“My feeling is that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] is going to be hearing from his red state mayors [and] red state governors who are going to be clamoring for more help for the red states, so that they can make it through this pandemic,” Markey said. “The red states are clearly significantly adversely impacted by the pandemic and ultimately I think that’s going to be what the determining factor is in the magnitude of the program that we’re able to pass. But I think now it’s more clear that something will pass. What’s in it is still to be determined.”
Markey has been vocally in favor of the federal government providing aid to states and municipalities hard hit by the pandemic, and is also supports sending monthly stimulus checks of $2,000 to individuals making below $120,000 until the pandemic abates.
On Tuesday, Markey also said that he is in favor of providing more direct relief to restaurants, but that he is unsure whether Republicans would agree to it.
“My own opinion is that we have to look to the industries that really do need help the most,” Marksey said. “I think restaurants are clearly inside of that category. I can’t predict what the Republican response is going to be on any individual addition that will be made, but I do believe that if we don’t give some help to the restaurant industry that there could be an extinction experience that hits the restaurant industry at large, not just [in Massachusetts], but all across the country.”
Markey Advocates For Sweeping Reforms In Criminal Justice
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed while unarmed at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Markey and Kennedy have both said they would not take any campaign contributions from police unions. Markey said Tuesday that they both agreed to the pledge due to the likelihood they would need to vote on and introduce legislation surrounding law enforcement.
“We just decided that we would draw that line so that we can be able to make independent legislative judgements on legislation that needs to be passed,” Markey said.
In the Senate, Markey has introduced a bill along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to end qualified immunity for police officers. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that shields government officials from civil lawsuits unless they violated a clearly established statutory or constitutional right that a reasonable person would have known about. Many have argued that the high burden of proof needed to meet that standard has made it nearly impossible for victims of police violence to hold officers accountable.
Markey has also thrown his support behind the House’s sweeping police reform bill “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” that would, among many reforms, seek to end the use of choke-holds and no-knock warrants on the federal level, create a national registry of police misconduct, and end qualified immunity.
Markey, however, said he is not confident that McConnell will pick up that or any other police reform bill.
“I honestly think that McConnell does not want to move a meaningful piece of reform legislation. ... And ultimately, it’s McConnell who is refusing to negotiate, and in the absence of his willingness to do so, it’s very difficult to see how we can reach a point where there is a bill which is negotiated with the House and then put on the president’s desk,” Markey said.
On His Primary Race Against Rep. Joe Kennedy III
On Sept. 1, Markey will face off against Rep. Joe Kennedy III in the first primary challenge he’s had during his time in the Senate since he first ran in 2013. Though Kennedy began the race with a significant lead in early polling, recent polls have shown the two now in a tight race.
Though both share many of the same positions, at their last debate last month, Markey called Kenendy a “progressive in name only,” and mentioned the congressman’s initial hesitancy to back Medicare for All. He also said Kennedy did not pay sufficient attention to climate change in his response to Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address to support his assertion. He also pointed to Kennedy’s prior experience working for Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, who referred to the progressive prosecution movement as the “‘social justice district attorney agenda” in a 2019 opinion piece for The Boston Globe.
“Being a progressive means that you lead on the issues, and that you see the most pressing need, the greatest challenges Americans are facing, and that you act,” Markey said. “When he had to cast the vote on whether or not to provide military weapons to local police, he voted to do so on the floor of the United States Congress. And these are all issues on which we differ, and we also have to question his leadership on those issues in terms of the ability to be able to get ahead of the curve and to be leading on these huge issues.”
Kennedy has previously said that he did not endorse Medicare for All initially because of language that restricted funding for abortions. He became a co-sponsor of a revised Medicare for All bill in 2019.
In a June 12 tweet, Kennedy responded to Markey’s criticism that he did not support an amendment that would restrict the transfer of military grade weapons to law enforcement departments by pointing out his support for another bill that would limit the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.