Latest Scion Of Kennedy Dynasty Gets Acquainted With Capitol Hill
By Joel Senick
BU News Service
WASHINGTON – As the more than 80 newly elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives assembled on the East Front steps of the U.S. Capitol for their class photo early Thursday, Rep.-elect Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., shared multiple laughs with colleagues standing on either side of him.
At one point, a bystander on the bottom of the many tiers of marble steps could hear the three men chuckle from well above.
“It’s a great class,” Kennedy said later in an interview. “Incredible, talented people who have done really amazing and impressive things.” He pointed to one of his companions in the mirth atop the Capitol steps: Rep.-elect Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio Republican and physician who spent a year on active duty during the war in Iraq.
Kennedy may possess most prominent name in this year’s freshman class, which is gathered here this week for the biennial new member orientation. He is the sixth member of his family’s political dynasty to serve on Capitol Hill – starting with his great-uncle, the late President John F. Kennedy, who was first elected to the House in 1946, and including his grandfather, the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-N.Y., and his father, former Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass.
But, when asked whether his family’s political heritage placed any special burden on him, Kennedy noted that he currently faces the very same tasks as all of his fellow freshmen – getting acquainted with future colleagues, both incumbent and newly elected, and dealing with the logistical challenges of setting up a congressional office.
“There is a sense amongst this class — and you could see it through the elections — that people want Congress to work,” said Kennedy, 32, who defeated Republican Sean Bielat in the Fourth Congressional District. “That means reaching across the aisle and understanding that even if you don’t agree on everything, that you just have to agree on some things.”
This week’s orientation also has allowed him to spend time with his Bay State colleagues. On Wednesday, Kennedy said he received advice and support from members of the Massachusetts delegation at a meeting.
“Massachusetts is just blessed with an incredible delegation who have been extraordinarily helpful for me from the very beginning of the campaign and all the way through,” said Kennedy. “Literally every one of them have been helpful and very responsive.”
In the coming weeks, Kennedy said he and his aides will have their hands full as they transition from the campaign trail to Washington. They must figure out the details of their budget allocation, hire staff, and set up offices, while still keeping track of current legislation in the lame duck session of Congress – all with barely six weeks until Kennedy is sworn into office on Jan. 3.
“You realize pretty quickly right after the election there’s a thousand things that need to get done very quickly,” said Kennedy. “Come January 3rd, you got to be ready to hit the ground running.”
Kennedy and his freshman colleagues have been in Washington throughout this week, and will resume orientation when Congress returns after Thanksgiving. So far, a tour of the Capitol has proven to be one of the most memorable moments for the incoming member of Congress – notwithstanding that it’s territory with which his extended family has been well familiar over the past half-century.
“Walking on the House floor, getting a chance to see the Senate chamber,” said Kennedy. “It’s a special moment.”