By Lindsay Corcoran
Like being a freshman in high school, Congressman Joe Kennedy III has been busy during his first few months on Capitol Hill. He's made new friends, gotten the lay of the land and adjusted to a new schedule.
"I get along with everyone in our freshman class, Democrat and Republican," Kennedy, a Democrat who represents the 4th District of Massachusetts, said in an interview with the Daily News earlier this week. "I've struck up a friendship with a gentleman from North Carolina. If you look at his platform and mine, you couldn't get farther apart, but he's the nicest guy you'd ever meet."
Kennedy even joked that his name recognition may have helped him make some friends.
"When people hear the name Kennedy, they expect a progressive," Kennedy said.
But as he's gotten his feet under him, Kennedy is now looking at some of the major priorities coming up in Congress, including immigration reform, and planning to continue his efforts for job creation at home.
"If we're going to get something done on immigration, this is the time," Kennedy said.
He talked about the scant reported-upon efforts in the House of Representatives where, he said, a serious group has been working to produce a bill that will really work.
"It has to be comprehensive, you can't go about it piecemeal," said Kennedy of what he hopes to see in the bill. Specifically, Kennedy said real reform would need to include a secure border, regulation, employer accountability and a path to citizenship. "We should have a system that will say yes or no and not create a 70-year-long process."
Kennedy also reflected on taking part in the fiscal cliff, sequestration and debt ceiling talks during his first few months.
"There is a subset in the Republican Party that thinks it's good to govern from crisis to crisis, who see it as an opportunity to cut, obstruct and block," Kennedy said. "As long as that group thinks that, there's no incentive to come to the table."
However, Kennedy said overall he has been impressed with his fellow congressmen.
"People say there is a lack of political courage today, but I couldn't disagree more," Kennedy said. "There are about 70 members who lost their seats (supporting) health care, but they still did it anyway. Whether you agree or disagree with that legislation, it is going to impact our country for decades. And I don't believe Democrats are more honorable, or have more integrity than Republicans. I've met many members willing to risk their seats for the good of the country."
Back in the 4th District, Kennedy said he's focusing on economic opportunity.
"There's some tremendous opportunities in this district for life sciences and biotech," Kennedy said. He said he's working on several levels to support those opportunities, including fighting for National Institutes of Health funding, funding for colleges and universities and looking for real investments in community colleges and vocational schools.
With five applications for gaming facilities within his district, Kennedy said he's not taking a stance one way or another.
"It's going to be up to the local communities and the communities that surround it," Kennedy said.