- Great-nephew of former U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy
- Was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012
- Member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
The son of former U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, Joseph Patrick Kennedy III was born on October 4, 1980 in Brighton, Massachusetts. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, he served in the Peace Corps from 2004-06. In 2006 he co-chaired the re-election campaign of his great-uncle, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. While subsequently pursuing a JD at Harvard Law School, the younger Kennedy worked for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, was a technical editor for the Harvard Human Rights Journal, and co-founded “Picture This: Justice and Power,” an after-school youth program based in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
Upon completing his legal studies at Harvard in 2009, Kennedy served briefly as an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) in Hyannis, Massachusetts, and then as an ADA in Middlesex County during 2011-12. In November 2012, the voters of Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District elected Kennedy, a lifelong Democrat, to the United States House of Representatives, where he succeeded Rep. Barney Frank and promptly joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Though he professes to be a Catholic, Kennedy maintains that all women should have unrestricted access to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand. He has voted against a proposal to deny federal funding to abortion providers; against legislation banning abortions on fetuses older than 20 weeks (unless the pregnancy endangered the mother’s life or was the result of rape or incest); and against a bill requiring healthcare practitioners to do everything in their power to save the life of any infant that happens to survive an attempted abortion procedure.
In 2014, the Jesuit magazine America invited Kennedy to publish an essay responding to Pope Francis’s repeated calls for the empowerment of the poor. In a piece titled “Dignity for All: Justice Begins with Economic Security,” the congressman emphasizes that only expansive government intervention can ensure the fulfillment of the biblical call to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger and comfort the afflicted.” Lamenting a host of shortcomings that allegedly plague American society, he cites such concerns as: “the growing number of people … unable to afford or access the most basic of human necessities”; a population that is “increasingly bookended by concentrated wealth on one end and the swelling ranks of the working poor on the other”; the “forty-nine million Americans [who] do not know if there will be food on their table next week”; and the “one in three American women [living] in poverty or on the brink of it.”
Deriding the “antigovernment rhetoric” of “colorful talk radio” that allegedly portrays poverty as a phenomenon “bred of individual inadequacy and government dependency,” Kennedy avers that poverty is in fact the product of: (a) “an economic infrastructure that builds heavy ceilings above the weak and vulnerable instead of sturdy floors beneath their feet,” and (b) “deeply structural injustices and inefficiencies” that come with the spread of “technology and globalization.” To address these matters, the lawmaker says that government must step forth and do a host of things — e.g., eliminate “tax loopholes” for profitable corporations; reverse the current trend of “divestment in public education”; undo the “deep and draconian cuts [to] our safety nets”; outlaw “the manipulative practices of credit card companies, payday lenders and debt collectors”; “guarantee paid sick leave and paid family medical leave” for all workers; “rais[e] the minimum wage”; and “pas[s] the Paycheck Fairness Act so that women are not paid less than men for doing the same job.” Toward the end of his encomium to big government, Kennedy cites the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ assertion that “government is a means by which we can act together to protect what is important to us.”
On the premise that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with human industrial activity are a major cause of potentially catastrophic global warming, Kennedy in June 2015 lauded Pope Francis’s newly released encyclical on climate change as “a global call for action” that “eloquently makes the case that … inaction saves its most tragic consequences for the poorest among us.” In order to counteract the deleterious environmental effects of fossil-fuel combustion, says Kennedy, the federal government should undertake a multi-pronged approach that includes the imposition of carbon taxes and the raising of CAFE standards for American-made automobiles.
In August 2015, Kennedy announced that he was in support of the nuclear deal that the Obama administration had recently negotiated with Iran—an agreement allowing the regime in Tehran to: inspect its own Parchin nuclear weapons research site, conduct uranium enrichment, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, continue to fund international terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. “I support this deal because it is the best means before us today to keep nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands,” said the congressman.
In November 2018, Kennedy stated that the U.S. should “remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level,” as this would: (a) “restore the federal government’s ability to regulate a powerful new industry thoroughly and thoughtfully”; (b) “allow us to set packaging and advertising rules”; (c) “help set labeling requirements and quality standards”; (d) “create tax revenue for research on mental health effects”; and (e) undo inequities “in our criminal justice system, where skin color dictates how likely you are to be arrested and charged for marijuana possession — despite equal use by people of all races — [an inequity] which devastates families and communities of color.”
In August 2020, a large group of violent rioters — angered by a white police officer’s nonfatal shooting of a local black man named Jacob Blake — swarmed the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Before any facts were known about what had transpired just prior to the shooting, Kennedy tweeted: “There will be no end to the police brutality and white supremacy Black Americans confront without action and real change. Jacob Blake, an entire nation is praying for you.”
As matters of principle, Kennedy believes that:
- the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a good law that can serve as a stepping stone toward the eventual implementation of a government-run, single-payer healthcare system;
- public and private employers alike should be legally required to implement affirmative-action hiring and promotion policies that give preference to African Americans and women, as compensation for historical injustices;
- restrictions on immigration are basically racist because they tend to prevent Hispanics and other non-whites from entering the United States;
- social services should be available to all U.S. residents regardless of their immigration status;
- illegal aliens should be offered amnesty if they have been productive members of society;
- all forms of religious expression in public places—such as prayer in public schools or the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings—should be forbidden;
- wealthy people should be required to pay much higher tax rates than those who earn less;
- U.S. defense spending should be scaled back dramatically;
- voter ID laws are, by and large, racially motivated attempts to suppress minority voting;
- voucher programs designed to enable low-income parents to send their children to private schools are undesirable because they divert vital resources from the public education system;
- capital punishment is never justified, under any circumstances; and
- the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which had struck down a ban preventing corporations and labor unions from funding the production of campaign ads for federal political candidates, “should be reversed.”
For a more detailed look at Kennedy’s congressional voting record and issue positions, click here.
Further Reading: “Joe Kennedy III” (Ballotpedia.org, Votesmart.org); “Dignity for All: Justice Begins with Economic Security” (by Joe Kennedy III, America, 10-3-2014); “Mass. Politicians Laud Pope’s Take on Need to Confront Climate Change” (Herald News, 6-18-2015); “Rep. Joe Kennedy III: It’s Time to Legalize Marijuana at the Federal Level” (by Joe Kennedy III, 11-20-2018); Joe Kennedy III’s Positions on Key Issues (OnTheIssues.org).
- The raising of CAFE standards is a practice that has compromised the structural integrity of many vehicles and has led directly to the deaths of thousands of drivers each year.