Joe Kennedy III - Finding Unity in America's Greatest Challenges - Extended Interview

Extended - August 2, 2017 - Joe Kennedy III 08/02/2017 Views: 161,181

Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III weighs in on the Trump administration's immigration crackdown and explains the Democratic strategy for revitalizing health care. (17:29)

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Please welcomeCongressman Joe Kennedy III.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Thank you so muchfor joining us, sir.

-How are you? Good to be here.-Good to have you here.

Um, let's getstraight into the news,

-Oh, good. -because on yourway here, things happened.

-That's not surprising,-Uh, Donald Trump...

-and still terrifying.-It is, isn't it?

-Yes, it is. -Every single daythere is something new.

Donald Trumpcame out and announced

he is looking at creatingthe RAISE Act.

Right? He's put forward an idea

that Americansshould only be allowed...

or people should only be allowedto become Americans

or come to this countryif they are highly skilled,

the best of the best,predominantly English speakers,

-I think, was oneof the criteria involved. -Yep.

As a lawmaker, you are goingto have to vote on this

at some point.

What are your first thoughts?


-(chuckles quietly)-(laughter)

(whooping, applause)

Uh, so, I fi...

-(laughter) -I find myselfdoing that a lot these days.


Trevor, it's where you...

You would think at this point...

how... how bad could it get?

And if you were gonna tryto characterize it this way,

could you possibly?

-And it just gets one-upped,right? -Right.

So, look, joking aside, um...

the outlines of that plan,at least from...

as it's been describedto me so far,

is, I think, an insultto our American story.

Look, it's not how my family came here,

it's not how I assume mostof the members of this audience,

their family came here,it is not...

From... from people that have...

been in other parts of the worldthat have undergone

and survived through oppression

and wars and famineand hardship,

to know that there is a placethat you can come to,

where, if you work hard,there are structures in place

where you can get ahead.

We are taking that away,

Donald Trump and the senatorsthat put this bill together,

-are literally slammingthat door shut. -Right.

Um... and that's not who we are.

That's not whatmakes America great.

-(applause, cheering)-It's not...


It is once again, I think,yet another example

of where... the presidentand this administration

have decided that somehow,for some reason,

our country todayis "us against them."

Whether it'san immigration policy,

whether it's a budget,whether it's a health care bill,

whether it's deciding that...

(chuckles):who gets into college,

almost every single policyproposal you have seen come--

roll out of this administration,from day one,

is... pits Americanagainst American.

And somehow, I mean, I thinkthe part that's most dispiriting

and dangerous for all of us

is that that isin somebody's definition

of making America great.

That somehow we are at our bestwhen we are divided,

when you are fightingwith each other,

when you are trying to competeagainst somebody else

to get to some zero-sum game,and by your succeeding

it means you're puttingsome other American down.

And, look, I just fundamentallydon't believe that.

I don't thinkmost Americans believe that.

I think there arereal big challenges out there

that we have to confront,but you do that,

you win when you get 320 millionAmericans pulling for each other

and fighting for each other,

and knowing that we'renot gonna leave you behind.


The, um...

the truth is, there islegislation every single day

that seems to be spoken about

that goes against many of thevalues that America stands for.

Um, you went viral a while ago--

which is a strange thing to sayto a human being, but you did--

um, and it waswhen you were speaking out

against Congressman Ryanand his views on health care

when he was sayingthere is mercy

in not giving certain peoplewhat they need.

And you spoke out against that.

Health care isone of the biggest issues

that is facing Americaright now.

The discussion aroundthe Affordable Care Act,

and whether or notto repeal and replace Obamacare,

and, as we've seen,it's broken down many times.

Realistically speaking,is there a way

to fix what is wrongwith Obamacare?

-Because it is not perfect.-Yeah.

Everyone acknowledges that.But is there a way forward

where both sides cancome together and fix it?

So the short answer to that is,yes, absolutely.

Look, all of these structuresthat we have--

the successes, whether it's beenin the Affordable Care Act,

or the challengesthat we have to it-- they're...

Believe it or not, there's humanbeings that passed those laws.

We can change them,you can strengthen them.

We could pass a tax reformproposal

on the back of that napkin,or the back

-of that paper if we wanted to.-Right.

It's just a questionof political will to say,

"Okay, can we get behind itand solve this problem?"

And I think...

Look, every single one of theproposals we saw on health care,

regardless as to whetherit was a couple iterations

through the House bills,or the Senate ones of late,

they decided, every singleof one of 'em, while different,

that down the line,structure was the same.

It created one systemof health care

for the healthy and the wealthy,

and another systemfor everybody else.

And fundamentally, that's not...I don't...

That's not who we areas a country.

Um, you can go throughthe details of those plans,

but what that means is

that for some large percentageof our citizens,

when you areat your most vulnerable,

when there's a loved onethat is sick,

when it's somebodythat is in need, when...

All of us, at some point, aregonna be brought to our knees.

-Mm-hmm. -That the most powerfulcountry in the world says,

"Too bad.You're on your own.

We will not be there for you."

And that's... that's notour country at our best.

That's not Americaat its best.

And the bottom line isthat every single...

almost every single personthat I meet,

if their neighbor fallson hard times,

-they're there for 'em.-Right.

And you're asking...

This administration continuesto ask people

to make up for their government,um, people to try to say,

"Hey, our government can't,but you're gonna have to

"if you believe the family down the street,

or the, uh...the child next door."

Um, and so, look,where do we go from here?

There's a lot of thingsthat we can do.

There's a lot of wayswe can fix it.

And I think you're starting tosee some of those machinations.

I would hope that if there'sone message at the moment

that this administrationunderstands, like it or not,

the president ofthe United States is gonna own

what happens with health care.

And he can try to put that offon somebody else,

but he's got a uniqueopportunity at the moment

to actually make our health caresystem in this country stronger

and betterfor every single American.

I really hope he takes itand doesn't somehow try to--

as you're hearingoff of Twitter--

that he's gonna somehow tryto sabotage it

for millions of peopleacross the country

and categorize that as success.We've...

He's gota unique opportunity here,

and-and I'd urge himto take advantage of it.

When you look at the problemsfacing health care

in America right now, one thingthat cannot be denied is

Medicaid expansion has costa lot of money,

and over the upcoming yearsand as the decades come,

the cost will keep increasing.

At some point, people saythere has to be a cut,

there has to be some sort ofmeasure that brings it down.

I mean, in Massachusetts alone,

I think it is 40% of...of your-your spending.

Um, and so when you're lookingat that as an issue,

how do you remedythat situation?

How do you figure out howto cut the Medicaid spending?

So, it's a great question. Um...

I promised my staffwhen I got in here today

I would not get into the weedsof health care financing,

-so, sorry. Um...-(laughter)

I'll do my best on this.

But, look, the-the real thingthat we need to do...

You're right in that, um,

Medicaid expansionand Medicaid,

-health care is expensivein this country. -Right.

The main reason whyhealth care is expensive--

and very well-respected studiessay--

about a third of the costs

in health careare just inefficient.

-They don't getto a better outcome. -Mm-hmm.

It's based off of what's calleda fee-for-service-based model.

It means that when you go ininto the doctor,

doctors and providers get paid

based upon the numberof prescriptions

-or proceduresthat they prescribe. -Right.

So, they'll go in and say,

"Hey, you should do thisand this and this and this."

And you don't mind becauseyour insurance company is paying

-for most of it, so you don'tpay that much. -Right.

But health care costs goes up.

What you needto do is create a new system

where the provider's actuallycompensated on outcome,

-so the quality of carethat's delivered... -Got you. make sure you're actuallygetting better quality care.

It means treating peoplein the right places--

at home if you can,

in a doctor's office rather thanin an emergency room.

In community health centers.

There's a whole senseof wrap-around services

that can be doneto lower health care costs.

The way you do that is you lean into programs like Medicaid

to identify those individuals

that actually arethe big spenders in this,

and make sureyou get those cost drivers

and those individualsunder control.

-And if you do that, you willsave boatloads of money. -Yes.

You don't do that, though,by rationing health care.

You don't do that by saying,"Hey, if you're sick,

good luck.Go back to an emergency room."

-We tried that,and it didn't work. -Uh-huh.

That's what this whole lastcouple of years has been about.

If you look at the peoplewho are on Medicaid,

some people have complainedsaying

that the issuethey face with Obamacare...

Some of the peoplein your state would go,

"I earn just enough money

"to be considered outof the poverty bracket.

"I am considereda middle-class earner.

"And yet, I am still too poorto afford Obamacare.

"I cannot get onto a program,

but I'm also too richto be on Medicaid."

What do you say to that person,who then says to you,

"Why is it that an able-bodiedperson is on Medicaid?"

So the-the issue--one of the big issues

we have in Massachusetts--and look, every,

every state does thisa little bit differently.

Massachusetts--for those folks that say,

"Hey, the Affordable Care Actdoesn't work,"

our unemployment rate is about3.6, 3.8 percent.

Our uninsured rateis under three percent.

-So we're doing pretty well.-Right.

We've got-- Medicaid is a largepercentage of our state budget,

but if you ask folks what thebig problem on this is,

and why Medicaid is so big,

it's because, one,you've got a Medicaid product,

and exchange products andcompetition in the exchanges

and plans that peopleactually like.

And our penalty, our mandatethat you've heard a lot about,

is actually tougher than it isunder the federal Obamacare.

But what that means is that

there's a stiffer penaltyto not get insurance,

but there's a better productif you get insurance.

And that meansthat you've got more people

that end up on, uh, theexchanges, the state exchanges,

than what happenedin other states.

Our governor, Republican,very well respected,

knows health care well,was a health care executive,

is putting forth some plans toactually try to shift that back,

and work with the businesscommunity to try to make sure

businesses aren't shiftingpeople to the exchanges,

because the exchanges happento be really good plans.

-Right. -So there's waysyou can go about this,

sitting down,thinking the problems through,

and not trying to solve aproblem that doesn't exist.

There are plenty of problemsin health care.

Telling doctors that they getpaid too much in Medicaid

is not one of them.

Trying to say that you're gonnasomehow address the issues

of lack of continuum of care

in rural Americaby addressing Medicaid...

The way you address that,

and, yes, Medicaidhas problems there,

is increasing reimbursementrates, not cutting them.

'Cause there's no doctors there

-that will take Medicaidto begin with. -Got it.

So they've diagnosed the problem

much like a lot of thingswith this administration.

They've diagnosedpart of the problem.

The solution is 100% backwards

from what you actually needto do to solve it.

Let's-let's talk about the,um...


Let's talk about solutions.

Is there a willingnessfor a solution to be found?

I mean, we watch Congress

and it rivals the greatesttraffic jams of the world.

You don't seem to see movement.

People voting againsteach other,

people voting politicallyas opposed to voting

for their constituents,it seems like, at times.

We're less popularthan traffic jams, actually,

so that's an insultto traffic jams.

Well, at least there's musicplaying in the traffic jam.

The, uh, the-the appearanceis that nothing can get done.

As somebody who's on the inside,as a congressman,

when you're working with yourfellow Congress people,

do you find that there is

a willingness for consensus?

Do you find that people actuallywant to work together?

Or are they so afraidof being "primaried,"

that they would rather appearto be enemies

and not do anything,than get something done?

So the partisanship is real.

Uh, I'm not-- you-you can'tdeny that.

And particularlyon the big things:

health care, taxes, immigration.

I like how you pointed at me

-when you said immigration.-Right.

Health care, taxes, immigration.

-Immigration, right.-But carry on, carry on.

Um... I'm not gonna recoverfrom that one, am I?

Thank you.

So those challenges are real.

That being said, uh, look,there's...

There are strongphilosophical differences

-that underlie those issues,-Right.

which we do haveto work through,

and we as a countryhave to work through.

If you go a level down,there's a whole lot of issues

where there is actuallya lot of bipartisan support.

You don't hear about it,you don't read about it,

but that is part of the wheelsof government

-that are cranking through.-Uh-uh.

I was able to get a-a bill

out of the House a couple ofweeks ago that creates

a over-the-counter categoryfor hearing aids.

Hearing aids costthousands of dollars,

for those of youthat might have them,

um, up to about $5,000for a pair.

Medicare doesn't cover them,so there's tens of millions

so seniors that actually needhearing aids

-that don't get them.-Mm-hmm.

That bill made it outof the House unanimously,

out of our committeeunanimously,

and out of the House.

Senator Warren is working witha couple of conservatives

in the Senate on making that--

having-having that versionof the bill in the Senate.

Um, that's a big dealfor a lot of people

that are missing conversationswith their kids,

their grandkids,

missing out on the golden yearsof their life.

-Right. -Um, you probablyhaven't read about it.

You probablyhaven't heard about it,

but it's actuallya pretty big deal

for those folksthat-that need it.

And, look,some of my closest friends

in Congress are Republicans.

They're...They represent districts

that are gonna be differentthan mine.

The concerns that drove themto run for office

are gonna be differentthan mine.

They're-they're doing whatthey think is the right thing

for their districtsand their country.

If they weren't,they wouldn't be there.

And I get along really wellwith some of them.

And, look, oneof the hardest parts of this job

is trying to separate, um...

the issues that drive youto run for office,

which we allfeel very passionately about,

-Yeah. -and understandingthat for some of us,

even some close friends of mine,

they're gonna be on the exactopposite side of those issues.

And trying to somehowseparate the policies

from the friendshipcan be difficult.

But, you know, just...

I guess one quick example.

Last... last week?

We were in the middleof a hearing,

um, and the guy next to me

was asking questions.

And I was sitting thereon my iPad,

and I went like this,and I went like this,

and a Republican texted me

and said, "Hey, don't pickyour nose. You're on camera."

-So, that was helpful. Right?-(laughs)

I mean, that's-that's one wayto work together.

-Hey.-I'm sure...

-I'll take it.-the American public is like,

"Yeah. Yeah, that, uh,that works for us."

-Um, I... -Hey,any little bit, at this point.

Every...Yeah, every little bit helps.

And that'snot a small thing, right?

Before I let you go,let's-let's talk about something

that rocked America,its military,

many people in Congress

and, surprisingly,both sides of the aisle.

This is somethingmany people agreed on.

Donald Trumptweeted out of the blue

transgender peopleare banned from the military.

Didn't seem like he consultedwith his generals,

or with the Pentagon, rather.

And everyone was in a hissy,

going, "What on earthjust happened here?"

Now, you have been workingon a program

with transgender peoplein America.

Is this a real thing?

Can it be a real thing?

And should it be a real thing?

Is it a real thing as of now?Not really.

Could it be? Yes.

-Should it be? Absolutely not.-And why not?

Why not? Because... (chuckles)

it's not who we areas a country.

It makes us--our military-- less ready.

It divides us.

Look, our men and womenin uniform, their families,

they step forthand answer that call to service.

They are willingto risk life and limb for us.

They don't discriminate.They don't say,

"I will lay down my lifefor you but not you.

I will serve you but not you."

What the president ofthe United States did last week

on a tweet was to say,"Some of you don't count.

-We are not gonna honorthat service." -Right.

And didn't show themthe same courtesy,

the same decency,the same respect

that all of them have done

when they put forth and answeredthat call to service.

And, Trevor, we hearan awful lot these days,

particularly from manyof my Republican colleagues,

talking about freedomand freedom to do this

and freedom to do thatand that freedom

is an inherent valueof the United States.

Those calls for freedomring pretty hollow

when this countrycannot guarantee

the most basic,fundamental freedom,

which is the freedom to be you.

And if you can't be you...

(cheering and applause)

It's all for nothing.

If you can't be you,

the rest of iterodes pretty quickly.

And, look, there's...

Behind closed doors,

and some right out in the open,

even someof my conservative colleagues

that are notas staunch advocates as...

of the transgender communityas some of us might be,

said very clearly,unequivocally,

"This is not right.You cannot do this."

The statement from the Chairmanof the Joint Chiefs of Staff

said, "We will not do this.

"We will not act on ituntil there is clear directive

"and it fallsthrough the tradit...

the appropriatepolicy channels."

Which is why I sayit isn't anything yet,

but it could beif the White House

actually movesin that direction.

But you saw him also saythat they will continue

-to treat everybody with dignityuntil that happens. -Right.

And that statementof treating people with dignity,

I think,is an important reminder

for everybody in our government,

everybody in our countryat the moment

that, I think, all of us

could do a little bit...

could do well to remember that,

and I would urge the White Houseto do the same.

-Thank you so much for yourtime. -Hey, my pleasure.

-Thank you. -Thank you very muchfor being here.

Congressman Joe Kennedy,everybody.

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