WASHINGTON — Massachusetts’ new congressman, Joseph Kennedy III, is spending part of the next few days in a retreat to get to know other newcomers to Congress. This week, he was sworn in to represent the district long represented by Barney Frank, who retired this year.
Kennedy’s office is around the corner from one of the leading lights of the Republican party, Rep. Paul Ryan. Kennedy is eager to spend the next few days forming relationships with his colleagues in both parties.
“They’ve been extraordinarily friendly so far, and I certainly look forward to it staying that way,” Kennedy said. “Every single person that I’ve spoken to, Democrats and Republicans, over the orientations and even my time on the floor have been gracious and have been very welcoming, and it’s something that I hope can last longer than a couple of weeks into office.”
Kennedy has said that he learned from his great-uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, that relationships are important. He cites the last-minute deal struck to raise taxes to avert the fiscal cliff as an example, because it was a deal struck by two old friends on opposing sides of the aisle: Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
At 32, Kennedy looks as young as many of the staffers walking the halls of the Longworth House Office Building. Unlike Massachusetts’ new senator, Elizabeth Warren, who must work out of temporary space for the coming weeks, Kennedy has an office. It’s one of a freshman congressman: his view is the building’s courtyard. In the reception area, there’s a cake for snacking, fuel for the work ahead.
“It’s exciting to at least have a place to be based out of,” Kennedy said. “As you can see, there’s still nothing up yet on the walls. Hopefully, we’ll be able to spend some time doing that over the days and weeks ahead, but excited to be able to get to work.”
Kennedy says there are moments from the day he was sworn in that will stay with him forever.
“A proud day for me to be able to really share it with my family, to have my mom, my new wife here as well, to be on the floor and take the oath with my father there,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy is the grandson of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the son of Joe Kennedy II, who held the seat now held by Rep. Mike Capuano.
Capuano is thinking of running for John Kerry’s Senate seat. President Obama has nominated Kerry as his next secretary of state. Also thinking of running are Rep. Stephen Lynch and state Sen. Ben Downing. Kennedy has a field organization that just elected him to Congress that he could mobilize to help anyone he endorses for Kerry’s seat. But unlike his great aunt, Vicki Kennedy, who endorsed Rep. Ed Markey, Kennedy is staying out of the primary fight.
“Democratic party, we have a field of riches there, and there’s Congressman Markey, who’s declared his interest, and I know a number of other candidates are thinking about it,” Kennedy said. “Every single one, I think, would be able to serve well and serve with distinction, and I’m looking forward to supporting whoever our nominee is.”
After our interview, Kennedy prepped for some conversations with his new staff and then was off to look for an apartment.