STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE: Kennedy sees GOP holding House, envisions potential ‘tough spot’ for Ryan As originally appearing in State House News Service
BY COLIN A. YOUNG
BOSTON — Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, a foot soldier of the Congressional minority throughout his two terms in Washington, predicted Tuesday that Democrats will win control of the Senate in November but said he doesn’t expect to find himself in the House majority come January.
“If the elections are held today, I think Democrats re-take the Senate. I think it’s going to be very close, but I think we take a seat or two” advantage, Kennedy told a breakfast crowd hosted by the New England Council. “In the House … I would feel reasonably confident in saying that Democrats will make some significant gains. Winning back the House is still a stretch. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? It’s a lot more likely now than it was six months ago, so we’ll see.”
The Democrats need to flip five Senate seats to gain control of the chamber, or only four if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. In the House, Democrats would have to pick up 30 seats to wrest the upper hand away from the Republicans.
Kennedy suggested that Democrats could pick up 15 House seats or a number “in that neighborhood,” but not claim a majority. He said it’s difficult to handicap the state of congressional races because of “particular trouble these days with polling.”
If Republicans hold the House and Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected president, Kennedy said House Speaker Paul Ryan will find himself in a political jam.
“Depending again on the kind of make-up of his caucus, whether (Ryan) actually can win 218 votes to be elected speaker again … is no sure thing,” he said. “Assuming he can, the second question is does he want to run for president or not, assuming Secretary Clinton is our next president.”
It would be difficult for Ryan to run for president and serve as speaker of the House with a Democrat in the White House, Kennedy said, because he will likely have to compromise with Clinton on issues like the nation’s debt ceiling and the budget.
“I think being forced to compromise on those issues makes it very difficult to get through a Republican primary” for president,” he said. “So he’s in a very tough spot.”
Kennedy said he recently spoke with three people who “know the speaker very well” — one said Ryan will definitely run for president, one was unsure of Ryan’s presidential ambition and the third said Ryan will certainly not run for president.
As for the 2016 presidential race, the congressman said he has “very real concerns of the destruction to our system of governance that Mr. (Donald) Trump could potentially do” in the 13 days until Election Day by suggesting the election is rigged, by refusing to abide by the result of the election and by continuing to attack Republican leaders like Ryan.
“As a Democrat, yeah, I would love to be in the majority in the House of Representatives at some point in my career. That would be wonderful. But the system still is better when we have two strong parties that are actually debating a contrast of ideas,” Kennedy said. “Yes, I disagree fervently with many of the philosophies of Speaker Ryan and his party. But Speaker Ryan is still a decent man and we need to have those debates.”
Kennedy listed the earned income tax credit, gun violence, mental health reform and poverty among the issues he would like to work with Ryan on.
“All of the issues that we should be talking about over the course of this debate, which we’re not because for some reason we’re talking about, or we were months ago, the size of a candidate’s hands,” Kennedy said.
After decrying Trump’s “debasing of the American system of governance,” Kennedy appealed to the audience for help “to pull this country back together” after a long and nasty election season.
“Regardless of what happens on November 8 — and I don’t want to make this too partisan but God help us if what I hope happens doesn’t happen — there’s going to be an awful lot of work that we all need to do on Nov. 9 to try to pull our community back together again given the vitriol and fractious nature of the past 18 months,” he said.