Six Bills Joe Kennedy III Got Done As A Member of Congress

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This upcoming January, the Massachusetts Congressional delegation will look slightly different.

That’s because it will no longer include U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton). When the 177th Congress begins January 3, 2021, Kennedy won’t be in it.

Instead of seeking re-election for his seat, he unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-Malden) in the September 2020 Democratic primary for Markey’s seat. Next month, Newton city councilor and fellow Democrat Jake Auchincloss will take Kennedy’s current job.

When Kennedy’s time in Congress ends, he will not have helped achieve some of the major goals he ran on this fall, such as Medicare-for-All, the Green New Deal, or free public college. However, that doesn’t mean Kennedy will leave his seat without any legislative accomplishments.

As it stands, Kennedy, who began serving in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, has been the primary sponsor of six enacted bills. Here is a look at what they did:


1.  CHIP Mental Health Parity Act

The CHIP Mental Health Parity Act put forth by Kennedy requires state Children’s Health Insurance Programs to cover mental health benefits and substance abuse treatment for children and pregnant mothers. The Congressional Budget Office said that the bill would have no budgetary impact because CHIP enrollees were already in plans that fit the description.

President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on October 24, 2018.


2.  POWER Act

Signed into law on September 4, 2018 by President Donald Trump, the POWER Act requires that the chief judge in each judicial district host a minimum of one public event each year that promotes free legal services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The requirement increases to two events each year in areas with high numbers of indigenous people.

The bill had bipartisan support, with U.S. Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) also sponsoring it in the House.


3.  Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017

Kennedy was the primary sponsor of the hearing aid bill in the House, and fellow Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren was the primary sponsor in the Senate. President Donald Trump signed this bill into law on August 18, 2017.

The bill will allow for the sale of hearing aids regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that will be available to consumers without having to go through a licensed professional.

Of the bill, Kennedy said, “Access to hearing aids shouldn’t be limited by cost and a lack of competition. Recent innovation in hearing aid technology and over-the-counter sales will ensure millions of Americans are able to obtain hearing aids that improve their ability to communicate with their families, at their jobs and everywhere in between.


4.  John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission Act

Kennedy was the primary House sponsor for a bill that established the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission. It created an 11-person commission — the Secretary of the Interior plus ten others appointed by the president and Congressional leaders.

The commission honored the centennial of JFK’s birth (which was May 29, 2017) with international ceremonies, award presentations, entertainment, educational events, and other programs across the country. Then-President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on July 29, 2016, in preparation for 2017.

“President Kennedy passionately believed that the collective capacity of the American people was limitless,” Joe Kennedy said in a press release at the time. “If we stood united towards a common cause, he knew the moon was within reach, equality was possible and lasting peace could endure. On his 100th birthday, we will commemorate not just the father, brother and president that he was, but the ideals and values that he left with this nation.”


5.  To Award the Congressional Gold Medal to Shimon Peres.

On June 9, 2014, then-President Barack Obama signed HR 2939, which granted a Congressional gold medal to Shimon Peres for his decades of public service in Israel.

Peres served as Israel’s ninth president from 2007 to 2014 and had two separate tenures as the country’s prime minister. He was a member of Knesset from 1959 to 2007.

“Mr. President, with a debt of gratitude not only for the history you carved but for the future you will undoubtedly shape: it is our honor to come together today to recognize you with the Congressional Gold Medal,” Kennedy said at the time. “In a world still, as you say, ‘aching for peace’ — for compassion in the face of great conflict and humanity in the face of great suffering — may your legacy light our way.”

Peres died two years later, on September 28, 2016, at age 93.


6.  To Authorize the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation To Establish A Commemorative Work in the District of Columbia and Its Environs, and for Other Purposes.

Kennedy, a former Peace Corps volunteer, sponsored his first successful bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to partially reverse the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, which banned new memorials and monuments on federal land in the Washington D.C. metro area without congressional authorization, including site, construction, and design approval.

Kennedy’s bill allows for a national monument in Washington, D.C. honoring the Peace Corps. Then-President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on January 24, 2014.

John F. Kennedy called for the establishment of Peace Corps via executive order in 1961.