BBJ: Capuano dishes on Trump, Green Line, Congress, and his own future
As originally appearing in Boston Business Journal

BY KATIE LANNAN

 

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano on Monday compared his strong belief that voters will decide not to “take the risk” by electing Republican presidential contender Donald Trump to his belief that the MBTA will build the long-awaited extension of its Green Line trolley into Medford and Somerville.

“It’s kind of like the Green Line. I just believe the Green Line is going to happen and I firmly believe Donald Trump is not going to be president,” Capuano told reporters Monday.

Speaking to business leaders at a New England Council breakfast at the Hampshire House, the Somerville Democrat took jabs at Trump while calling for a return to “adult conversations” in Congress and a willingness to fund big solutions.

“You have to be a little bit concerned for this country and the world,” Capuano said. “The problem is, it doesn’t mean that Donald Trump is a bad guy or incapable. I don’t know what he is. I don’t know what he is, and that scares the heck out of me.”

A supporter of likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Capuano characterized issues where he disagrees with Clinton — including her 2002 Senate vote for the Iraq war — as “family differences.”

Apart from ideologies, Capuano pegged differing debate styles as a key difference between Republicans and Democrats.

“Whether you like or do not like what we did for the term that Democrats were in charge of the House, you have to admit, we had thoughtful, important and serious discussions about issues that matter, and we’re not doing that now, and we are unlikely to do it until this election is over,” he said.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans came together last month to pass a series of bills addressing opioid addiction, which Capuano said represent “a thimble full of cure for a serious problem.”

“It costs money to give those people help,” he said of people fighting addiction. “You can’t do it just because you have a good heart and a nice bill that says we don’t like opioid addiction. It needs money and time to provide the opportunity, the places and the people to do the hard work.”

Capuano described transportation as another realm where ideas needed to be backed up with funding and as a “classic example in today’s world where we have been able to come up with bipartisan bills because nobody’s ranting at each other.”

An advocate of the MBTA’s Green Line Extension, the future of which was called into question when cost estimates ballooned by around $1 billion, Capuano said he feels “very comfortable” with a scaled-back redesign of the project. After the redesign and pledged contributions from Somerville and Cambridge, MBTA officials now face an estimated $73 million funding gap.

“I never asked for gold-plated stops. I just asked for service,” said Capuano, a former Somerville mayor. “From what I understand, they’ve done that, they’re still a few dollars short. They’re not going to walk away from the Green Line for $74 million or whatever else the number is.”

After saying he thinks first-term Republican Gov. Charlie Baker “is doing a great job so far,” Capuano said he would change his mind if Baker “makes the wrong decision on the Green Line.”

Capuano said he’s been “reasonably satisfied” Baker when the two work together.

“If he turns into Donald Trump, I’ll have a lot to say about it,” Capuano said. “He’s about as far as you can get from Donald Trump and still be a Republican.”

Asked about U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s trading of barbs with Trump on Twitter and in speeches, Capuano said he finds the exchanges “interesting and fun.”

With Warren’s name circulating as a potential Democratic vice presidential nominee, Capuano said he hasn’t asked the senator if she wants to be vice president but would support her if she does.

He downplayed the idea that he might run in a special election for Warren’s seat if she ended up on a presidential ticket, saying, “Who, me? My idea of Western Mass is Newton.”

Later, Capuano said he wouldn’t rule out seeking the seat.

“I’m not foaming at the mouth for the opportunity,” he told reporters. “If it happens, I’ll consider it, like anybody else will. Five hundred people will consider it and two or three people will end up doing it, and I don’t know whether I’d be one of them or not.”

Capuano in 2009 came in second in the US Senate special election Democratic primary, before Scott Brown went on to defeat Martha Coakley and fill the seat that opened due to the death of the Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Warren is up for reelection in 2018 and state law calls for a special election to be held should she give up her seat early, with Gov. Charlie Baker naming a temporary senator to serve in the interim.

At the Democratic Party’s state convention in Lowell on Saturday, reporters asked Warren about Senate Minority Harry Reid’s reported exploration of options to keep her seat in the hands of Democrats should she give it up to become vice president.

“There’s a lot of speculation and I’m just not going to get into that. Senator Reid will do what he does,” she said.

Pressed again whether she would accept a slot on the Democratic ticket if offered, Warren said, “I love my job and I get up every day to do my dead-level best to represent the people of Massachusetts and to fight for the values that people sent me down to Washington to fight for . . . There’s a lot of speculation out there and I just really don’t know. I’m doing my job and I’m doing the very, very, very best I can.”

Matt Murphy contributed reporting.

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