Five Times Ed Markey Has Flip Flopped In Congress

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Ed Markey has a reputation for being one of the most progressive members of the United States Senate.

Even so, consistency is not his strongest trait.

Markey has been in Congress since 1976, first as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 36 1/2 years before moving to the U.S. Senate in 2013.

During that time, he has changed his mind (or at least his positions) on several issues. Here are five examples:

1. Abortion

In 2022 America, Markey is a pro-abortion politician. He was the preferred candidate of NARAL Pro-Choice America in his race against then-Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III — who is so committed to abortion that he did an online campaign event with three abortionists.

Markey supports taxpayer-funded abortions and voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Yet Markey was once pro-life — and even a little on the militant side. When Markey first ran for the U.S. House in 1976, he supported an amendment to the United States Constitution outlawing abortion.  “He says his abortion position is a matter of conscience, because he thinks abortion is wrong,” a news story in The Harvard Crimson at the time reported.

Markey was one of 12 candidates in the race. Markey had the support of Massachusetts Citizens For Life.

Eventually, though, his conscience … developed.

When running for the U.S. Senate for the first time in 1983 and 1984 (without giving up his House seat), Markey flipped his position. His run was unsuccessful, but his switch on abortion was permanent. 

“I was making a personal decision about what I felt was the right thing to do,” Markey told The Boston Globe in 2013 to explain changing his position. “I wasn’t thinking about it in any other context than I felt uncomfortable with the way I was voting.”


2. Forced Busing

Forced busing to try to desegregate public schools by federal court order was a controversial practice in Boston in the 1970s, and Markey was no fan of it.

Markey was against busing when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, as MassLive reported in 2019.

“His busing position is based on his belief that busing doesn’t improve the quality of education,” reported The Harvard Crimson in 1976. “Instead, Markey advocates increased funding of inner-city schools and non-discriminatory hiring and assignment policies on the part of local school committees.”

Markey changed his stance on forced busing in 1982, according to MassLive.


3.  School Prayer

Markey identifies as a Roman Catholic.

How Catholic is he?

During a debate in 2020 he said he had recently prayed for a half-hour outside of his childhood Catholic church in Malden during the time churches were not allowed to be open to the public in Massachusetts because of a coronavirus executive order issued by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

When it comes to religion in school though, Markey is not a fan — anymore.

During the War on Terror in 2001, Markey voted against allowing prayer in public schools, as OnTheIssues points out. This was a 180-degree shift from his stance 20 years earlier. Before his 1984 Senate run, when he shifted left, he was in favor of allowing prayer in schools, as points out.


4. Trade

Markey is no fan of free trade agreements these days. He voted against the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement in 2019, and put out a lengthy statement rebuking it. (The deal passed with bipartisan support.)

Markey wrote:  “Despite this climate emergency, the USMCA trade deal fails to even mention climate change – the most important issue of our time. It has no climate or environmental standards, which will mire progress on this generational challenge. The trade deal includes explicit giveaways for the fossil fuel industry, making it cheaper to export dirty tar sands oil and continues giving the gas industry carte blanche to export American gas to Mexico. It also gives polluters new power over the policymaking process while continuing old rules that allow fossil fuel companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil to file suit in secret tribunals against climate or environmental policies.”

The United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement has similarities to its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement. And yet, Markey voted for that trade agreement in 1994, according to the roll call.

Some critics who think climate change is a problem also thought NAFTA contributed to it.


5.  Crime

An uninitiated outsider taking a look at Markey’s Senate campaign Web site might conclude Markey is a longstanding champion of criminal justice reform.

One passage on the priorities part of his site reads, “Ed believes we must re-evaluate the laws that have harmed these communities for decades, like mandatory minimums, zero-tolerance policies that enable the school to prison pipeline, the criminalization of poverty, homelessness, and mental illness.”

Markey was not always in favor of such criminal justice reform, however.

Markey voted in favor of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, also known as The Crime Bill, in 1994. The bill, in part, expanded the federal government’s ability to hand out the death penalty, and created stricter penalties for repeat offender illegal immigrants. It also created tougher sentencing for those trafficking crack than those trafficking cocaine. 


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