Could Congressman Joe Kennedy Be the Next President Kennedy?

Congressman Joe Kennedy sat down in Washington DC with NBC10 Boston's Alison King for an exclusive interview

Congressman Joe Kennedy is in demand on Capitol Hill. From chatting with student groups to meetings, votes and hearings, Kennedy juggles the responsibilities of his job while having the extra – pick a word - scrutiny/burden/privilege of being a Kennedy.

Which means “The View” wants to book him, visitors want photos and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has her eye on him.

Pelosi tapped Kennedy to give President Trump’s State of the Union Democratic Rebuttal – an indication that Kennedy is considered a future face of the party.

"The speech was obviously a big moment for me," Kennedy said.

Known for his humble, self-deprecating nature, Kennedy downplays the speech but he can’t avoid the questions about his future – and talk of a Presidential run.

Alison King: How do you process all of that?

Joe Kennedy: "It’s not something on my radar screen."

Alison King: Is there an overwhelming aspect of that? You know, like, c’mon guys, I just got here. Or, wow, that’s...

Joe Kennedy: "It’s a little bit of both. Again, it’s an incredible honor that folks would think that that’s something I might want to think about at some point down the road."

Alison King: Does it get put on you in part because you’re a Kennedy?

Joe Kennedy: "I grew up in a family where members of my family have run for President or have been President. Given the place that we are in as a country at the moment, there is a yearning for a type of politics that actually brings people together and I think members of my family have practiced that type of politics for a long time. And so it’s nice to see that that message is resonating again."

Kennedy believes any desire to see another President Kennedy is more about a return to his family’s type of leadership than his last name.

Congressman Michael Capuano says the Kennedy name is both a blessing and a burden for Joe: “Because the expectations can be so high and people think they have, they know what that means and I think that’s probably a difficult, more difficult than some people realize, to live up to what people expect of you.“

Fans of Kennedy say the Congressman would be on a Presidential short list, regardless of his last name.

The Stanford and Harvard Law grad worked in the Peace Corps and as an Assistant District Attorney before running for Congress.

And he’s gotten behind the kind of liberal policies that play well in his district.

On healthcare: “Single-payer is definitely something we should consider.”

On guns: “I certainly would support an assault weapons ban.”

And his philosophy of government as he pushes back on the Trump agenda with a louder public voice: “We are seeing threats to healthcare, to civil rights, to LGBT rights, to the environment, to the extent to which we didn’t see under President Obama and so I think that means for me, speaking up and calling that out and trying to stand strong on those values and vision and then also working with Republicans where you can to try and move the ball forward.”

Alison King on healthcare: Where are you on single-payer?

Joe Kennedy: “Single-payer is definitely something we should consider. It's definitely something that I think needs to be on the table and I think we need to have a discussion about it. I think we need to be very careful about, when we define what single payer is, how we're going to go about getting there and what that means. We've seen over the course of the past year that these policy details matter, and the main legislation that has been before the House of Representatives at this point, I've got serious problems with. One, it puts severe limits on a woman's right to access abortion. Two, it means the closure of a number of hospitals, particularly some that are in my district. Without a plan at all for how those folks are going to access care. Three, it's a completely different way of financing healthcare in our country, which I might be open to, but we have to have that discussion about what that means and how we pay for it. And that bill is silent on any of those details. And so before I go and sign onto a bill that yes, I support exactly what it is philosophically, but absent a discussion as to how you're going to get there and the restrictions put on women's access to reproductive care, I've got serious reservations with that.

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Alison King on gun control measures: If there was one piece of gun legislation you could pass tomorrow, which one would it be?

Joe Kennedy: "It would be one that would encompass a whole lot of different policies."

Alison King: What just absolutely has to get done?

Joe Kenendy: "So, the challenge on this, Alison, is that there is not a single policy proposal that is going to solve the gun violence problem in this country, right. There's a number of pieces on this that we I think as a country have to work toward. So one, yes, we need to tighten and strengthen our background check system. That needs to get addressed. Two, I do believe we should tighten our gun sale loophole and private sale loophole. Three, I think we need to be looking at, I certainly would support an assault weapons ban. I think we should. I think we need to. That's a controversial piece of legislation for across the country. That's fine. I understand that. Four, I think we do need to look at, I think there are a number of other initiatives here that are ones that at least deserve discussion. My conservative colleagues always like to point to this as a mental health issue. Is it an issue in certain circumstances? Yes. Is it an issue that is going to solve all of these challenges? No. But by the way, to my Republican colleagues, your main legislative initiative for the past year was to gut the main payer of mental health services in this country, Medicaid, by $800 billion and strip access to mental and behavioral health services for millions and millions of people. So don't tell me that this is a mental health issue when you then went and tried to take away access to mental health care from millions of Americans.

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Alison King on legalizing marijuana: You did not support the legalization of recreational marijuana, you know, how are you different?

Joe Kennedy: "Again, we kind of have to be thoughtful about this, right? So if we decide that we want to move to legalization, again as the voters of Massachusetts did, I recognize that and I certainly respect the decision of Massachusetts, I want to make sure that we have the policies and procedures and safeguards in place to make sure we do that responsibly. I was a former prosecutor. I had plenty of cases where somebody was pulled over for driving erratically and perhaps under the influence of marijuana. There's no reliable roadside test at the moment that courts will accept, that many judges will accept, to test whether somebody is under the influence of marijuana. If we're going to make marijuana far more accessible, then I think we should have the public safety procedures and policies put in place in order to ensure that. I think there's, my concern is not so much with the average user of marijuana accessing it in a recreational way in their home or again recreationally. That's not my concern. My concern is for those marginal cases where, particularly for younger Americans, where there is teenagers, adolescents, where the data does say it potentially can have an adverse impact. And one of my major areas of focus, Alison, has been mental behavioral issues that our country is facing. And there's a number of experts and advocates there that do say, point to the fact that in certain circumstances, particularly for younger Americans that access to marijuana can be detrimental, and I think that those voices need to be heard, too."

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